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New beta warnings suggest watchOS 5 will likely drop support for first-generation Apple Watch apps

Apple has begun displaying warnings about legacy watchOS apps in the watchOS 4.3.1 betas, 9to5Mac reports, suggesting that watchOS 5 may in fact drop support for original watchOS 1 WatchKit apps entirely. The move is similar to the warning dialog discovered last year in iOS 10.3 signalling Apple’s intention to discontinue support for 32-bit apps — a move that was made when iOS 11 shipped last fall. At the report points out, it’s also interesting that the latest watchOS beta has been numbered 4.3.1, despite it being released alongside iOS 11.4 and tvOS 11.4 betas, suggesting it’s a considerably more minor release.

Apple ordered to pay $502.6 million in latest twist in VirnetX patent suit

Apple has been ordered to pay $502.6 million to VirtnetX Holding Corp in the long-running patent suit between the two companies, Bloomberg reports. The case, which has been bouncing around the courts in various forms since before 2012, accuses Apple of infringing on VirnetX’s secure communications related patents in its FaceTime, VPN on Demand and iMessage implementations. Apple has been consistently denying and challenging these claims in court, of course, with the most recently result being judgment last fall against Apple in the amount of $439.7 million, higher than the original $368.2 million ruling from 2012, but considerably less than a 2016 judgement for $625 million. This latest verdict is likely to be a short-lived victory, however, since The Patent Trial and Appeal Board has already declared all four of the patents in question as invalid in other cases that are currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals, however these cases are still ongoing and those decisions are non-binding until all appeals have been exhausted.

Israel joins the list of countries investigating Apple over iPhone slowdown issue

Israel has added its voice to the chorus of governments who have been looking into Apple’s handling of the iPhone slowdown issues revealed late last year, Reuters reports. Israel’s Consumer Protection and Fair Trade Authority revealed this week that it is investigating Apple “over a failure to disclose to consumers that its software could slow performance in some iPhones,” adding in a statement that it has already questioned Rony Friedman,  the head of Apple’s operations in Israel. The Israeli agency holds the power to levy significant fines in civil proceedings, however a spokesman for the agency said it was too early to discuss that possibility. A spokesman for Apple in Israel has declined to comment.

Ikea releases its first Bluetooth speaker

Ikea has released Eneby, its first Bluetooth speaker. Available in two sizes — an $89 12x12 model and a $49 8x8 model — Eneby features a design typical of Ikea products, includes a removal soft fabric front, and is available in either black or gray. Eneby plugs into a wall in its base configuration, but it can also be used with a battery pack, sold separately for $20, to go portable with up to 10 hours of battery life. A knob on the front provides on/off and volume, bass, and treble controls. The smaller model comes with a handle for portability, and wall mounting and stand options are also available as separate purchases, and the larger version is specifically designed to fit in Ikea’s Kallax shelving units. [via The Verge]

Apple lands Asimov ‘Foundation’ TV series

Apple has made a deal to produce a TV series adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s famous Foundation trilogy, Deadline reports. The project is the brainchild of Skydance Television, which made a deal with the Asimov estate last June for the rights to develope a “sprawling series” based on the books, with David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman tagged as executive producers and showrunners. Goyer is co-writing the upcoming Terminator reboot and has worked on The Dark Knight, batman Begins, Ghost Rider, and the Blade franchise, and Friedman’s work includes Avatar 2, the War of the Worlds remake, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Deadline suggests that this latest deal signals an even higher level of ambition for Apple, following its morning show drama headlined by Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, a re-imagination of the Spielberg classic, Amazing Stories, along with a Ronald D. Moore space drama, a Damien Chazelle series, a Kristin Wiig comedy, and others.

Third-party screen repairs causing iPhone 8 touchscreens to fail in iOS 11.3

Customers are once again experiencing problems with third-party screen repairs and iOS updates on Apple’s latest iPhone models, Motherboard reports. From information gleaned from repair shops, Apple’s iOS 11.3 update has been “killing touch functionality” in iPhone 8 models that have been repaired using aftermarket screens — iPhones that worked perfectly fine with the repaired screens prior to the update. According to Michael Oberdick of Ohio-based iPhone repair shop iOutlet, the repair community believes the problem is being caused by a small microchip that powers iPhone screens, and that some unknown component in the iOS 11.3 update kills touch functionality with that chip. Third-party screen suppliers have apparently solved the problem, but it requires the chip to be physically replaced in each affected iPhone.

Apple announces all facilities now fully powered by renewable energy

Apple has announced that all of its facilities worldwide — from retail stores and offices to data centres and co-located facilities in foreign countries — are now powered with 100 percent clean and renewable energy. This major milestone includes facilities across 43 countries, and nine additional manufacturing partners have also committed to powering all of their Apple production with 100 percent clean energy, bringing to the total number of supplier commitments to 23.

Report: Apple working on triple-lens rear iPhone camera

Apple may be planning to include a triple-lens rear camera in a 2019 iPhone model, according to Taiwan’s Economic Daily News (via MacRumors). The report claims that the new camera will still have a 6P lens design with 5x zoom, although it’s unclear on whether that’s a optical zoom or merely a digital or hybrid zoom; only the dual-lens iPhone models currently offer optical zoom capabilities by using the second lens for a 2X zoom — it’s conceivably possible that a third lens could similarly provide a 5X zoom. A three-lens rear camera could also provide even more improvements to low-light performance, if the use of such camera systems on competing phones are any indication.

Apple accused of infringing patents in Apple Watch heart rate sensor technology

Apple is facing another patent lawsuit, this time from a Michigan-based technology startup that claims the heart rate technology used in the Apple Watch infringes on its patented technology. The startup,
Omni MedSci, specializes in near-infrasrer and mid-infrared broadband lasers, and says that it met with Apple from 2014 to 2016 to discuss the use of its technology, but Apple broke off partnership discussions before later introducing technology using Omni MedSci’s approach. The lawsuit was filed in the Eastern district of Texas on Friday and claims that Apple willfully infringed on its patents and is seeking both damages and an injunction against the company.

Apple unveils (PRODUCT)RED Edition iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, Folio for iPhone X

Apple has once again released new (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition versions of its current iPhone models — in this case the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. The new colours are similar to last year’s (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, although they of course feature the new glass back design and more interestingly this year Apple has also chosen to go with a black front bezel versus the white bezel used in last year’s models. The new versions are otherwise identical to the standard iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models, essentially just adding a new color option to help bolster mid-season sales and continue Apple’s tradition of supporting the (RED) Global Fund in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Upcoming Twitter API changes will break third-party apps

Upcoming API changes to Twitter will limit important functionality in third-party Twitter apps, according to a new post by a coalition of developers at Apps of a Feather. Back in December, Twitter announced plans to discontinue “streaming services” as of June 19, 2018, which as the developers point out will break both push notifications and automatic timeline refresh in third-party Twitter apps such as Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, and Twitterrific.

Apple expresses opposition to repeal of Clean Power Plan

Apple has formally stated its opposition to any repeal of the Clean Power Plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Reuters reports, noting that a repeal of the Obama-era program to reduce greenhouse gases would actually “jeopardize the country’s position in the race for investments in clean energy” and place the U.S. at a disadvantage in comparison to countries like China. In a filing to the EPA, Apple stated that “Repealing the Clean Power Plan will subject consumers like Apple and our large manufacturing partners to increased investment uncertainty,” adding that it would also threaten development and investments that the company has already made in renewable power.

Mophie announces Charge Stream Pad+

Mophie has announced the Charge Stream Pad+, a universal wireless charging pad that provided a universal charging experience for both Apple’s new iPhones and Samsung Qi-enabled smartphones. Following in the footsteps of the company’s Wireless Charging Base released specifically for iPhone users last fall, the new Charge Stream Pad+ includes ten-watt charging support for Samsung devices, as well as compatibility with all of Mophie’s Charge Force Juice Pack battery cases, while still maintaining 7.5-watt compatibility the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X. Unlike the Wireless Charging Base, which used a standard power adapter, Mophie will be including a QC 2.0 wall adapter and USB-A to micro-USB cable to power Charge Stream Pad+, which otherwise appears very similar visually to the earlier charging pad. Charge Stream Pad+ will retail for $60 and is available now in Verizon stores, at Verizon.com, and mophie.com, and is expected to arrive in Best Buy and AT&T stores in the near future.

Scanbot 7 adds advanced filters, overhauled design

Scanbot has released a major update to its eponymous iOS scanning app, with the new Scanbot 7 delivering a significant redesign along with sophisticated new filters based on machine learning algorithms and search and performance improvements. The new filters provide advanced document processing that result in extremely sharp text, truer whites, and more vivid colors as well as adding the ability for users to now tweak filer settings such as contrast, brightness, and saturation. The redesigned user interface also provides a more intuitive experience along with expanded themes including high contrast theme for visually impaired users, along with a legacy theme for those who preferred the old style. New search capabilities now allow scans to quickly be located by tag, location, or date, and other speed improvements include keyboard-based text annotations and a reworked document processing engine that produces faster results and more lightweight PDFs. Scanbot has also partnered with DATEV eG, a cloud service aimed at professionals such as tax advisors, financial auditors, and lawyers to help those using Scanbot in a business context easily upload documents for further processing and sharing. Scanbot 7 is available from the App Store as a free download, with an in-app “Pro” upgrade providing access to advanced features such as OCR, PDF editing and encryption, iCloud support, passcode protection, and themes; a “Lite” option is also now available via in-app purchase that provides basic in-document PDF search and annotation for a lower price.

Case-Mate releases Power Pad wireless charger

Case-Mate has entered the wireless charging market with today’s announcement of its new Power Pad that combines a fast wireless charger with a stand to keep your iPhone in an upright position. Featuring 7.5-watt Qi-enabled charging capabilities for iPhone, a removal “iPhone-shaped” charging pad allows users to lay their device flat for charging separately from the stand. Devices can also be charged in landscape or portrait orientations, and an LED indicator confirms that your device is properly charging. A slip resistant ridge helps guide your iPhone for proper placement, and base grips also prevent the pad from sliding around on smooth surfaces. Power Pad sells for $60 and is available from Amazon in either black or white and features a minimalist design that makes it appropriate for just about any setting.

Future iPhones may include curved OLED displays and touchless UI

Apple has long term plans in the works for future iPhone models that include touchless gesture control and curved screens, according to a new report from Mark Gurman at Bloomberg. Citing people with knowledge of the matter, the report notes that the new features are part of projects that are already in the works at Apple for possible implementation the next two to three years, and would be ways of helping the iPhone stand out more in the crowded smartphone market. Touchless control would be a UI enhancement that would let users perform some tasks simply by placing their finger close to the screen without actually tapping it, representing an entirely new way to interact with the iPhone, responding based on proximity of a finger to the screen in much the same way that 3D Touch responds to finger pressure.

Kerry Ehrin takes over Apple’s upcoming morning show drama

Apple has made some staff changes on its upcoming morning show drama, Variety reports, with drama veteran Kerry Ehrin expected to take over the series, which will be starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon. The prior show runner, Jay Carson, has reportedly left over “creative differences.” Ehrin had previously been under a deal with Universal Television and is best known for her role as co-creator, executive producer and showrunner of A&E’s Emmy-nominated drama “Bates Motel.”  The as-yet-untitled new morning show drama represents Apple’s first big television project, stemming from a November deal with Michael Ellenberg’s Media Res banner and Aniston’s Echo Films and Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine banners, with Apple landing an order for two seasons with ten episodes per season. Based on an idea from Ellenberg, the series will reportedly be drawing background material from CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter’s 2013 book “Top of the Morning,” which talked about a recent rivalry between major NBC and ABC morning shows.

Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence joins Apple

Apple has scored a “major coup” in the hiring of John Giannandrea, Google’s chief of search and artificial intelligence, The New York Times reports. Apple announced the hiring late yesterday, adding that Mr. Giannandrea will be in charge of Apple’s “machine learning an A.I. strategy” as one of the 16 key executives who report directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. After joining Google in 2010, the 53-year-old Scotland-born Giannandrea became a leading force behind the push to integrate A.I. technology throughout Google’s products, including internet search, Gmail, and Google Assistant. Giannandrea originally came to Google with the company’s acquisition of Metaweb, a start-up that was building a “database of the world’s knowledge” that later became a key component in Google’s direct answer feature.

iFixit publishes ‘iPad 6’ teardown

iFixit has posted its teardown of Apple’s latest low-cost iPad model. Dubbing it the “iPad 6” in its teardown, iFixit’s analysis of the sixth-generation iPad reveals a device that’s mostly just a lightly upgraded model of last year’s fifth-gneration iPad, with the Apple A10 Fusion CPU and a new “Pro-grade” Broadcom BCM15900B0 touchscreen controller providing Apple Pencil support — the same chip found in last year’s iPad Pro models. iFixit noted that the LCD was surprisingly easy to remove one it’s separated from the cover glass and digitizer, and the air-gapped and separately replaceable cover glass and LCD make many drop damage repairs far less expensive than they might otherwise be — an advantage for an iPad targeted at classroom use. However, iFIxit noted that this was about the only repairability advantage to the new iPad, which otherwise presented many barriers to easy repairs, such as a solid barrier of very strong adhesive holding the iPad together and nearly everything else in place, along with foam sticky tape that increases the risk of damage during disassembly. While these are likely not to be serious issues for professional repair shops, it will definitely be an impediment to do-it-yourself repairs, resulting in a “repairability score” by iFixit of 2 out of 10.

Apple releases first tvOS 11.4, watchOS 4.3.1 betas

Alongside the first iOS 11.4 developer beta, Apple has also released new betas for tvOS 11.4 and watchOS 4.3.1. Both versions appear to be relatively minor updates focused on bug fixes, with very sparse release notes listing no new features, and in the case of watchOS 4.3.1 not even any known issues.

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