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Twelve South announces HiRise stand for Apple Watch

Twelve South has announced an Apple Watch version of its popular HiRise stand — HiRise for Apple Watch ($50). The metal stand is designed to display the watch at an elevated angle, allowing the user to interact with the watch face while the device charges. HiRise works with the Apple Watch’s magnetic charging cable, which is inserted into the stand and routed out the back. The new stand features soft silicone pads and a leather landing pad in back to protect the watch, band and metal clasps. Available in silver and black, HiRise for Apple Watch will ship in May. Twelve South’s HiRise Deluxe stand was released for iPhone and iPad late last year.

Apple Store effect wins company lower mall rents

Apple is using the high traffic its retail stores generate to pay lower rent than other mall stores, The Wall Street Journal reports. An Apple Store’s ability to lift overall mall sales single-handedly — by as much as 10 percent, according to real-estate research firm Green Street Advisors — lets the company negotiate drastically lower rent and leaves other stores to foot the bill, even if they don’t benefit from Apple’s added traffic. In the past, department stores paid little to no rent since they served as main draws for the traffic upon which smaller stores depend. Apple has elevated itself close to that level, bargaining to have its rent based on no more than 2 percent of its sales per square foot, compared to a typical store that pays as much as 15 percent. “As department stores close, Apple is replacing them as the main driver of traffic to the mall,” said Raymond Cirz, chairman of Integra Realty Resources, a real-estate valuation and consulting firm.

Apple wants battery maker lawsuit thrown out

Apple has asked a Massachusetts judge to dismiss a lawsuit by electric battery maker A123 claiming Apple poached that company’s employees, according to Reuters. Last week Apple asked for an extension in the case, saying the companies were exploring a settlement, but a document filed Tuesday has Apple asserting that A123 hasn’t provided enough evidence to justify legal action. “Apple hiring five A123 employees, without more, does not indicate improper means or motive to support a claim for tortious interference or ‘raiding,’” Apple said in the filing.

Apple reportedly bringing Force Touch to next iPhone; pink color option?

Apple is planning to put Force Touch technology — which will be included in the Apple Watch and new MacBook — into the next generation of iPhone, according to The Wall Street Journal. The feature allows improved touch sensors to distinguish between a light tap and a deeper press, letting users perform different functions by applying different levels of pressure. Sources say the Force Touch versions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be released later this year. The screen sizes for both devices will stay the same, but Apple is also reportedly testing a new pink color option to go alongside the current silver, gold and space gray models.

Apple donating $50 million to encourage diversity in tech

Apple has pledged more than $50 million in donations to help encourage more employment diversity in technology fields, Fortune reports. In an exclusive interview with the publication, Apple’s HR chief Denise Young Smith revealed that the company is working with several non-profit organizations on a “multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to increase the pipeline of women, minorities, and veterans in the technology industry.”

Young Smith, who came from a decade recruiting for Apple Retail and took over as head of Apple’s human resources division about a year ago, notes that the company “wanted to create opportunities for minority candidates to get their first job at Apple” and that the company believes that it needs to be diverse and inclusive in order to innovate. The HR executive goes on to note that Apple’s definition of diversity goes beyond race and gender, and that the company wants its employee base to “also reflect different lifestyles and sexual orientations.” However, its diversity issues for now remain mostly focused on women and minorities. Through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Apple’s initiatives will help build a database of computer science majors at historically black colleges and universities as well as training faculty and students and offering scholarships. The company also plans to create a paid internship program for “particularly promising students.” Apple is also working with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) to help “create a broader pipeline of female technology workers” by doubling the number of four-year degree recipients through internships, scholarships, and the company also plans to reach 10,000 middle school girls over the next several years.

Apple Watch: storage limits outlined, replaceable battery

All Apple Watch models have 8 GB of storage, but there are limits on how that storage can be used, 9to5Mac reports. A maximum of 2 GB can be allocated to music, and only 75 MB can be used for photos on the Photos app, as confirmed by Apple. That translates to roughly 200 songs and 100 photos that can be accessed even when the watch is away from an iPhone. The rest of the space will likely be reserved for the system’s OS, apps, and other internal data.

In other Apple Watch news, TechCrunch reports that Apple has confirmed the watch’s battery will be replaceable. Details on how much it will cost for Apple to replace the battery — and what the replacement process will entail — are still unclear.

Apple has also confirmed (way down in the fine print on the Apple Watch info pages) that the watch is “splash and water resistant but not waterproof.” So you can work out, walk in the rain and wash your hands, but no scuba diving.

Apple struggling to drop price of upcoming streaming music service

Apple has backed down from an effort to lower the subscription price of its upcoming music service, Billboard reports. It appears Apple will have no choice but to stick with the standard $10/month price used by other similar services, with the report noting Apple would have to absorb any losses from setting a lower price. The company was aiming for an $8/month subscription price, and an earlier report even claimed Apple had discussed a $5/month price with record labels.

Apple is still negotiating with labels and artists, and very little is known about what the final version of the service will look like, though it’s “widely believed” Apple will replace the Beats Music name with its iTunes brand. While Apple is still reportedly pursuing exclusive releases for its service, industry sources are skeptical that the company will be able to outmaneuver competitors for such exclusives. “Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world. If they want exclusive content, they’re going to have to get out the checkbook,” one source told Billboard.

Report: CIA researchers trying to break iPhone, iPad security

Researchers with ties to the CIA have been working for years to crack the security on iPhones and iPads, The Intercept reports. The researchers presented their latest achievements at the “Jamboree,” a secret annual gathering where attendees swap strategies for breaking into commercial and household electronics. Hackers discussed attempts to crack the security keys used to encrypt data on Apple devices, as well as efforts to modify the OS X updater and Apple’s proprietary software development tool, Xcode, to insert malicious code onto Apple devices. If successful, these breaches would allow hackers to intercept messages, steal passwords and even possibly “force all iOS applications to send embedded data to a listening post.”

Documents from 2010 to 2012 given to The Intercept by Edward Snowden note that researchers were “particularly intent” on extracting encryption keys for Apple products, but “do not address how successful the targeting of Apple’s encryption mechanisms have been, nor do they provide any detail about the specific use of such exploits by U.S. intelligence.” Neither the CIA nor Apple commented on the story, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has long touted privacy as a core value and has previously criticized the actions of U.S. intelligence agencies and law enforcement on such matters.

Apple increases iPhone prices in Canada

Apple has increased the price of unlocked iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus units in Canada by approximately 12 to 14 percent, likely owing to persistent differences in currency exchange rates between the two countries. The price of the basic 16GB iPhone 6 has increased by $90 CAD, from $749 CAD to $839 CAD, while at the other end of the spectrum, the 128GB iPhone 6 Plus gets a price increase of $150 CAD, going from $1,079 CAD up to $1,229 CAD. With the gap between the U.S. and Canadian dollar having increased dramatically over the past four months, the previous pricing was significantly below the exchange rate, however these new prices now make Canadian unlocked iPhone models slightly more expensive than their U.S. counterparts, even after exchange rates have been factored in. This move follows a similar 20 percent price increase that hit the Canadian App Store this past January. [via iPhone in Canada]

Apple publishes official Watch battery life estimates; Power Reserve mode to last 72 hours

Apple has published official specs on the expected battery life for the Apple Watch, noting that the wearable device is expected to provide “all-day battery life” of 18 hours based on a usage profile of 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use, and a 30-minute workout with Bluetooth music playback, although the article is careful to note that “actual results will vary” as “battery life varies by use, configuration, and many other factors.” Additional testing results estimate 3 hours of talk time, 6.5 hours of audio playback, 7 hours of workout time, and 48 hours of basic use involving four time checks per hour.

The document also describes the Apple Watch Power Reserve mode, which will provide up to 72 hours of time-check-only use — again based on 4 four-second time checks per hour. Charging time is also estimated at 1.5 hours to reach 80 percent of a full charge, and 2.5 hours to reach a full charge. Notably, Apple notes the performance claims are based on tests done using the smaller 38mm Apple Watch, stating that “a 42mm Apple Watch typically experiences longer battery life.”

WaterField Designs releases new Apple Watch accessories

On the heels of Apple’s official Apple Watch release announcement, new Apple Watch accessories have started to appear. WaterField Designs has debuted its leather Time Travel Apple Watch Case and Apple Watch Pad, designed to both protect and organize the Apple Watch and other related accessories such as bands. Available exclusively from the WaterField Designs online store, the Apple Watch Case ($49-$59) stores extra watch bands, the Apple Watch charger, Bluetooth ear buds, and other accessories in padded interior pockets and a choice of a leather or ballistic nylon exterior, while the WatchPad ($17) is designed to provide an elegant and protective surface upon which to place the Apple Watch while charging.

Apple reveals more Apple Watch apps on website

Apple has dedicated a new section of its site to Apple Watch apps. The site shows off a number of apps that were demonstrated at today’s event — such as American Airlines and SPG — while also introducing a slew of other Apple Watch apps. We figured out many of these apps last October in our Early Guide to Apple Watch Apps, but some other apps now featured on Apple’s site include Babbel, Expedia, PlayKids, Procreate Pocket, and Redfin, among many others. Also included on the site are Apple Watch games, like Rules! and BoxPop.

Apple Watch launches April 24; pre-orders on April 10th, prices starting at $349

As expected, Apple has provided an official launch date and pricing for the new Apple Watch at today’s “Spring Forward” event. The Apple Watch will launch on April 24 in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Apple will begin accepting Apple Watch pre-orders on April 10th, and demonstrations and previews of the device will be available in Apple Retail stores on the same date.

The Apple Watch Sport model, which includes an aluminum casing, will retail for $349 for the 38mm model and $399 for the 42mm model. The standard stainless steel model will be available in a traditional or slate black finish and will retail from from $549 to $1,099 in the same 38mm and 42mm sizes, with specific prices depending on watch band selection. The solid gold Edition Apple Watch will be available in limited quantities, starting at $10,000 at “select retail stores” — presumably those which have been equipped with vaults.

Apple releases iOS 8.2

During today’s “Spring Forward” event, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that iOS 8.2 is being released today. The new update includes an Apple Watch app that will provide access to the App Store for the new wearable device, as well as the ability to configure settings, transfer apps to the Apple Watch, and even watch information and preview videos on the Apple Watch before buying one. iOS 8.2 is expected to be available for download through the normal software update mechanisms later today.

Update: iOS 8.2 includes a patch to remedy the FREAK security flaw.

Apple announces ResearchKit to assist medical research data collection

Apple announced a new technology during the company’s “Spring Forward” event that will expand its HealthKit framework to aid in medical research. ResearchKit will allow users who wish to participate in research studies to opt into an app or service that will automatically collect medical data from their iPhone and securely and privately submit it to researchers. Apple has already partnered with universities and hospitals to help build apps that will allow them to further the study of conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease and breast cancer. Apple COO Jeff Williams emphasized that the service will be entirely opt-in, demonstrating how users would have to sign up for research studies — in some cases even with an on-screen signature to indicate consent — and how all data would be submitted directly to researchers securely and privately, and that such data is not even available to Apple. Williams also noted that as it is Apple’s goal to make this platform and data available as widely as possible, ResearchKit is being released as open source. Five initial partner apps will be available for download today, and ResearchKit will debut next month.

Cook: ‘every major car brand’ committed to supporting CarPlay

While reviewing the new iPhone technologies, Apple CEO Tim Cook noted that “every major car brand” has committed to supporting CarPlay, stating that 40 new car models are expected to be announced this year with built-in CarPlay support. Notably, however, it’s unclear what Cook means by “committed” in this context, particularly in light of Toyota’s recent statement that it has no plans to adopt CarPlay in the near term.

Apple drops Apple TV price to $69

During today’s Apple Event, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that the Apple TV price is being dropped to $69. While no new hardware was announced, the lower price was noted as a way to make the Apple TV more accessible and provide more users with access to content such as the new HBO Now service announced at the same event.

Apple unveils HBO Now channel on Apple TV

During today’s ‘Spring Forward’ event, HBO CEO Richard Plepler, joined Apple CEO Tim Cook on stage to officially announce the exclusive release of HBO’s new HBO Now streaming service on the Apple TV. The service will debut in early April and will be priced at $15/month, and Plepler noted that all you need to get HBO Now is “a broadband connection and an Apple device,” including not only the Apple TV, but also iPhone and iPad users. While HBO previously offered an HBO Go service, this was tied to existing cable or satellite subscribers; the new HBO Now service will be available via direct subscription, providing access to all of HBO’s past, current, and future content, including new releases such as the upcoming season of Game of Thrones, which Plepler noted will be available to those who sign up when the service debuts in April.

Report: Apple Stores to take appointments to try on Apple Watch

Apple Stores will be taking appointments for customers to try on the Apple Watch, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Customers will make reservations to test the watch in a “quiet showroom” setting, separate within an Apple Store. The report also reveals that Apple has researched platinum watch casings, but the company isn’t expected to announce any sort of platinum-edition Apple Watch today. All will be revealed soon, as the event starts in less than an hour.

Follow iLounge’s live Twitter coverage of today’s Apple event

Follow @iLounge on Twitter during Apple’s Spring Forward event today for up-to-the-second coverage of everything new about the Apple Watch, and any other surprises Apple has in store. After the event ends we’ll have all the details here, so check back regularly throughout the day for an in-depth look. Apple’s special event starts at 10 a.m. Pacific time (1 p.m. EST), and will be streaming live on Apple’s website and on Apple TV’s Special Events channel.

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