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iOS 9 Transit feature to launch in select cities

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.

Report: iOS 9 to feature Force Touch support, updated keyboard

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.

Microsoft confirms Cortana coming to iOS this year

Cortana — Microsoft’s answer to Siri — will be available to iPhone users through the App Store later this year, according to a blog post from Microsoft. Cortana will manage various functions across both an iPhone and Windows 10 PC — Microsoft notes that its “Cortana app can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone.” It will be able to answer questions, provide reminders, make notes, track flights and other routine tasks. There will be some limitations to the integration, however, as the iOS version of Cortana won’t be able to toggle settings or open apps on iOS, and isn’t integrated with an iPhone’s microphone to enable the hands-free access available on a Windows phone by saying “Hey Cortana.”

Microsoft hopes its new Phone Companion app built into Windows 10 will make PC desktops more appealing to iPhone users, allowing the phone to instantly upload photos, access music, work on Office documents and make notes that sync up with a user’s PC through the company’s OneDrive service.  A preview of Phone Companion will be available in a few weeks, but Cortana isn’t scheduled to land on iPhone until later this year.

Apple creates Chief Design Officer role for Jony Ive

Jony Ive is taking on the role of Chief Design Officer at Apple, as revealed in The Telegraph. Ive had been Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design for years prior, controlling both the industrial design for devices and the interfaces which run on the finished products since 2012. The promotion leaves Ive at the helm of Apple’s design process, but as of July 1 he will hand off day-to-day duties to new Vice President of Industrial Design Richard Howarth and new Vice President of User Interface Design Alan Dye. Howarth has worked on every version of the iPhone ever produced and Dye was integral in both the iOS 7 redesign and the new Watch OS interface for Apple Watch.

Report: iOS 9 will bring new security features, improve legacy device support

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.

Report: Apple’s push for local content may delay Apple’s TV service

Apple is endeavoring to include access to programming from local TV stations as part of its new streaming television service, Re/Code reports; a move which may delay the launch that was originally expected to occur later this year. The move would help to significantly distinguish Apple’s streaming televisions offering from rival companies, most of which only offer major network programming and in some cases local programming in select major cities. Industry executives who are familiar with Apple’s plans have revealed that the company is looking to provide much more widespread access to programming from local broadcast stations in “cities around the U.S.” However, the move is said to have complicated negotiations with networks due to the varied ownership, affiliate, and franchise system in place between broadcasters and local stations.

The report notes that past attempts to secure rights for showing local programming and commercials can be time consuming, citing the example of ABC’s two-year quest to get the rights to show live programming in its Watch ABC app, with the resultant programming still limited to viewers in only eight cities. Infrastructure concerns are also noted, with many local affiliates not presently having the necessary streaming capabilities in place. Industry executives have also noted that they “don’t believe Apple has signed any TV programmers up” for the new service, making an announcement at this year’s WWDC very unlikely. Despite these hurdles, TV executives who are in talks with Apple are reportedly optimistic that the service will eventually launch, with money being the most significant hurdle, rather than technical limitations.

Adobe dropping Photoshop Touch in favor of more focused apps

Adobe has announced that it will be discontinuing its Photoshop Touch app, preferring to focus instead on its family of more focused apps tied into its Creative Cloud program. A post on the company’s Photoshop Blog highlights Adobe’s other more recent offerings such as Photoshop Mix and Photoshop Sketch as examples of how the company believes it has produced better user experiences through “laser-focus” on specific and traditionally complex workflows for specific subsets of tasks, rather than the more ambitious approach of trying to replicate all of Photoshop’s capabilities in a mobile app. In a similar vein, Adobe has already started work on a new “serious retouching” app to add the the collection, dubbed “Project Rigel” which is expected to be available later this year.

Photoshop Touch is scheduled to be removed from the App Store on May 28th, and no further updates will be provided. Users who have already purchased the app prior to that time, however, will be able to continue using it on their devices or even reinstalling it from their purchase history “for the foreseeable future” – likely meaning for as long as it remains compatible with future iOS versions.

Report: Dual app viewing, multiple logins coming to iPad

In addition to the rumored iPad Pro expected later this year, Apple is said to be working on several additional hardware and software improvements to the iPad, according to a new report from 9to5Mac. Rumours have been circulating for some time now regarding split-screen multitasking on the iPad — a feature that was expected in iOS 8 last year — however sources now suggest that the side-by-side app support feature will arrive with iOS 9, and in fact may be introduced as soon as this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June and be available in the first iOS 9 developer betas.

Sources indicated that Apple originally intended to debut the split-screen feature with the iPad Air 2 last fall, however it was considered “too unpolished” and removed it from iOS 8.0 with plans to reintroduce it in iOS 8.1. Soon after, however, Apple was forced to reprioritize its engineering resources on the iPhone and Apple Watch, effectively tabling the feature until iOS 9. Latest plans suggest the feature will provide 1/2, 1/3, and 2/3 views, subject to the parameters of specific apps, with the screen able to display either two different apps side-by-side or two different views of the same app. It is still unclear, however, whether Apple will have the feature ready to show by next month. Sources also suggest that Apple may hold back the feature to debut it with the release of the “iPad Pro” later this year.

Support for multiple users on a single iPad is also said to be in the works, however sources suggest that this feature will not make the cut for the initial release of iOS 9, and it’s not certain whether it will arrive this year. However, Apple is apparently actively working on it in parallel with iOS 9 as it is a feature the company believes is “critical to the enterprise and education sectors,” suggesting that it could debut with the “iPad Pro” or as part of an iOS 9 point update.

Transit coming to Apple Maps in iOS 9?

Apple may finally be adding transit directions to Apple Maps with the release of iOS 9, according to new information obtained by 9to5Mac. When Apple transitioned from Google Maps to its own mapping service, integrated transit directions were one of the casualties, and as a stop-gap measure, Apple provided plug-ins for third-party routing apps for getting directions, allowing users to start planning a trip in Apple Maps and then switch to another app, such as Google Maps or Transit app, to provide specific routing directions. While built-in transit routing was expected to arrive last year in iOS 8, Apple reportedly experienced difficulty getting the feature off the ground due to personnel problems and data, as well as coverage limitations, deciding to pull the feature just prior to WWDC 2014.

Sources are now indicating that Apple hopes to launch its Transit service with iOS 9, which would include bus, subway, and train route navigation as the major updates to the Maps app. The new functionality would not only include routing and trip planning for public transit, but also larger icons for airports, subway stations, and train stations, and a new Transit view to complement the existing standard, hybrid, and satellite views. In addition, Apple has also apparently been making headway on an indoor mapping project that would allow users to navigate major buildings, offices, and landmarks. Autonomous robots with iBeacon sensors are reportedly being deployed in buildings to collect data for the indoor mapping project, however it’s uncertain whether this feature will go live with iOS 9 or is simply being prepared for some future release.

Apple and IBM expand MobileFirst apps to Apple Watch

Apple and IBM have begun expanding MobileFirst enterprise apps onto the Apple Watch, as evidenced by updates to Apple’s Mobile Enterprise Apps webpage. The updated page shows three apps that now provide Apple Watch support.

Hospital RN allows notifications to be sent to the Apple Watch to alert “nurses to review new patient requests, changes in lab status, safety alerts, and prioritized task lists for immediate action. And Apple Watch lets nurses quickly view notifications so they can stay more focused on patient care.” Field Connect (pictured above) sends notifications to field technicians of “late-breaking news on severe weather, outages, hazards and crew member information” to the Apple Watch, so “field technicians can view important alerts, without stopping what they’re doing.” Incident Aware allows police and other public safety workers to receive urgent alerts of emergency calls and related information right on their Apple Watch. [via 9to5Mac]

Report: Pebble facing financial struggles?

Pebble, the company behind one of the first successful smartwatches, may be facing financial troubles, TechCrunch reports. Citing sources close to the company, the report notes that the company has allegedly turned to a Silicon Valley bank for a $5 million loan and $5 million line of credit, as VC firms have refused requests for new capital infusions. At this point, Pebble has 150 employees and continues hiring. However, even with the $18 million crowdfunding infusion from its recent Kickstarter campaign for Pebble Time, the company apparently has needed to turn to a bank loan “in order to stay afloat.”  The report goes on to indicate that many employees have been unhappy with the direction the company is taking in the face of both large and small competitors, ranging from the Apple Watch to the upcoming Olio Model One. While the hiring process — which is being run by former Apple executive Jeff Hyman — is apparently unpopular, many employees reportedly remain “cautiously optimistic” about the company in general.

iOS 9 to include new Home app for HomeKit?

Apple is currently working on a new embedded iOS app for unifying and controlling HomeKit devices, 9to5Mac reports. Dubbed simply “Home”, the app would provide a central user interface to managing HomeKit accessories from any developer using the standard HomeKit specification. Sources familiar with the app have revealed that the app is currently “fairly basic” in its capabilities, with the present development version only providing the ability to wirelessly discover and setup HomeKit devices, organize devices into virtual “rooms”, utilize an Apple TV as a hub to connect HomeKit devices, and help users discover new HomeKit devices and apps. The development app is apparently embedded in iOS 9 builds being used by Apple employees already, however sources have indicated that the app may not yet be ready to show to the public, making it unclear whether it will make an appearance at WWDC in June.

Report: Apple to bring Apple Watch font to iOS 9

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.”

Leak reveals Flow by Outlook, a Microsoft email messaging app for iPhone

Microsoft looks to be working on a way to make email conversations on the iPhone more like instant messaging with an apparent new app discovered by Twitter user @h0x0d. A posted image shows a general outline for Flow by Outlook, an app designed to let users have real-time conversations via their email accounts without bothering with the subject lines and signatures of traditional email exchanges. Only conversations started within the Flow app will be displayed there, separating out the more casual instant messaging-style communications from standard email correspondence. Users will be able to continue Flow conversations in Outlook. A disclaimer at the bottom of the image marks Flow as “Microsoft Confidential” and implores users not to discuss Flow or send Flow messages to anyone outside of Microsoft. [via ZDNet]

Olloclip releases new Active Lens for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus

Olloclip has introduced its new Active Lens for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus ($100). Active Lens fits over both front and rear cameras like the company’s previous 4-in-1 Lens and Macro 3-in-1 Lens and Telephoto + CPL Lens models. The newest lens kit features ultra-wide and telephoto lenses along with three wearable pendants. Active Lens can be paired with the Ollocase and is available for pre-order now on Olloclip’s web site. We’ll have a review in the near future.

Refurbished iPad Air 2 models hit Apple Store

Apple has added refurbished iPad Air 2 models to its online store for the first time. The online store has several models and colors available, starting at $419 for Wi-Fi models and $519 for cellular-enabled versions. All the refurbished devices are discounted between 15 and 17 percent off the price of a new iPad Air 2 and include a one-year warranty. [via MacRumors]

Apple releases first Apple Watch Software Update

Apple has released Watch OS 1.0.1, the first software update for the Apple Watch. The 51.6MB download includes performance improvements and bug fixes related to Siri, measuring stand activity, calculating calories for indoor cycling and rowing workouts, distance and pace during outdoor walk and run workouts, accessibility, and third party apps. The update also provides support for new Emoji characters and language support for seven additional countries. The Watch OS 1.0.1 update can be downloaded and transferred to the Apple Watch through the Apple Watch app on a paired iPhone. For the update to be installed, the Watch must be in range of its paired iPhone, and connected to its charger, with battery life of at least 50 percent.

Apple extends agreement with TomTom for Maps

In a simple two-sentence statement, TomTom confirmed that its partnership to provide Apple with maps and related information has been extended, but provided no further details. TomTom has been partnered with Apple since 2012, the same year Apple fired its own internal manager in charge of Maps for iOS 6. Apple recently announced the acquisition of GPS firm Coherent Navigation, which could be another move to bolster the features of Maps. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple releases iPhone Lightning Dock with iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus compatibility

Apple has released a new iPhone Lightning Dock compatible with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.The product description says Apple-designed cases won’t interfere with docking, but makes no promises about third-party cases. The dock can be plugged into a wall outlet to charge the iPhone using the Apple USB power adapter or connected to a computer with the USB cable to both sync and charge. An audio line-out port provides a connection for powered speakers and the dock supports headphones that include a remote control. Apple last released Lightning docks in 2013 for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c.

Apple, others urge Obama not to limit encryption

Apple has joined a large group of privacy advocates in an appeal urging President Obama to reject efforts to weaken the security of smartphones and other communications devices — the letter was obtained by The Washington Post. Facing increasing pressure from the FBI, CIA and other government agencies to make encrypted information available in the name of safety, the group of tech firms, security experts and other organizations argues that keeping user data private guards against worse threats. “Encryption protects billions of people every day against countless threats — be they street criminals trying to steal our phones and laptops, computer criminals trying to defraud us, corporate spies trying to obtain our companies’ most valuable trade secrets, repressive governments trying to stifle dissent, or foreign intelligence agencies trying to compromise our and our allies’ most sensitive national security secrets,” the letter reads.

The group claims introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products increases the likelihood of those same weak points being exploited by malicious attackers, undermining the security of both private citizens and entire governments. Citing an international chilling effect that the U.S. could create by forcing weaken encryption domestically, the group closed its appeal by pointing out the dire human rights risks if far less tolerant countries are emboldened to make similar demands. “The result will be an information environment riddled with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by even the most repressive or dangerous regimes. That’s not a future that the American people or the people of the world deserve.”

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