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Apple patent hints at improvement to let Siri recognize specific voices

A new Apple patent spotted by Patently Apple would train Siri to recognize specific voices, creating the potential to limit who the digital assistant recognizes and add new controls. Once configured, a customized combination of a specific phrase and a user’s voice—which Apple’s patent refers to as a “lexical trigger”—would be required to get Siri to respond. Current voice-activated digital assistants respond to specific speech, but not to specific speakers, creating circumstances where a user’s request can be picked up and acted upon by other devices in earshot. In addition to limiting that type of confusion, the change could allow users to place restrictions on everything from who can use Siri’s search on an unattended iPhone to who is allowed to rent movies from an Apple TV.

Apple Music for Android update adds lyrics support, brings design into line with iOS 10 Music

Apple has rolled out a fairly extensive upgrade to its Apple Music app for Android, bringing it more in line with the experience on Apple devices. The update simplifies the user interface to allow for better navigation and makes it easier to find downloaded music that can be played offline. Listeners on Android can now also read the lyrics along with songs as they listen, listen to Beats 1 shows and get For You recommendations for playlists and albums based on their individual music selections. The app is free to download, but requires an Apple Music subscription to function (after the three-month free trial has expired).

Reports: iPhone 8 won’t cost more than $1,000, but launch may be delayed to October or November

Problems with the iPhone 8’s 3D sensors and OLED screen lamination could delay the phone’s launch to October or November, the Economic Daily News reports [via DigiTimes]. While Apple’s new iPhones usually begin shipping in late September/early October, several reports have claimed that Apple’s extensive prototyping and desire to add new features could push production of the device to begin later than usual. This latest claim suggests that the 3D sensors rumored to be bringing depth sensing and facial recognition capabilities to the iPhone 8 have led to “technical issues.”

High-level Apple designer Christopher Stringer leaves the company

Veteran Apple designer Christopher Stringer is leaving the company after 21 years, The Information reports. Stringer has been involved in the creation of some of Apple’s most iconic products, including the first iPhones and iPads. He was also a crucial witness in Apple’s defense against Samsung’s claim that the company stole the iPhone design from them. Stringer is one of a handful of long-time employees who have left the design team after Jony Ive accepted a promotion and turned over day-to-day operations to Richard Howarth. Apple declined to comment on the move.

Apple adds 22 new U.S. banks, credit unions

Apple has added 22 more banks and credit unions to its slate of supported Apple Pay partners in the United States, along with two new financial institutions in Russia. The full list of new U.S. banks is listed below, and a complete list of all Apple’s supported U.S. partners can be found on the company’s website.

Apple refunding recent purchases of Workflow app

After acquiring popular iOS automation app Workflow, Apple is providing refunds to some users who recently purchased the app. One user on Reddit said they “bought workflow maybe 2 weeks before the acquisition was announced” and recently received an email from Apple announcing that the company would be providing a refund of the full purchase price. Another user who claims to have bought the app a month ago didn’t get a similar email and hasn’t seen a refund posted, so it’s unclear how far back Apple is going with its reimbursement. In an unusual move for the company, Apple left Workflow available in the App Store after buying it and simply made it free.

Apple releases minor iOS 10.3.1 security update

One week after the public release of iOS 10.3, Apple has now pushed out a small iOS 10.3.1 update, noting that it “includes bug fixes and improves the security your iPhone or iPad.” While no details of specific improvements are otherwise listed in any release notes, Apple’s About the security content of iOS 10.3.1 support article suggests that it was pushed out to address a Wi-Fi vulnerability that could allow an “attacker within range ... to execute arbitrary code on the Wi-Fi chip.”

Apple bidding on Toshiba’s flash memory division, cuts ties with Imagination Technologies

Apple, Amazon and Google have joined the bidding on Toshiba’s NAND flash memory production division, Reuters reports. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun daily, Apple’s bid is still unknown, but other firms and companies have offered around $18 billion for the unit. A source with knowledge of the sale said about 10 bidders have expressed an interest so far, including Western Digital and U.S. chipmaker Broadcom. It’s unclear what Apple’s plans would be if it were to actually acquire the flash memory production, but the move would almost certainly bring the company’s own memory production in-house. Apple has expressed an increased interest in controlling more of its component production, with Imagination Technologies announcing today that Apple would be ending it’s deal with them after “working on a separate, independent graphics design in order to control its products and will be reducing its future reliance on Imagination’s technology.”

Australian government nixes banks’ bid to collectively bargain with Apple

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has finalized its initial ruling against the county’s banks, meaning they won’t be able to collectively bargain with Apple for access to the iPhone’s NFC capabilities. The banks had lobbied for the ability to force Apple’s hand in the matter in the hopes of being allowed to make their own mobile pay wallet options available on the iPhone, but ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said in the ruling that the commission wasn’t “satisfied, on balance, that the likely benefits from the proposed conduct outweigh the likely detriments. We are concerned that the proposed conduct is likely to reduce or distort competition in a number of markets.”

Apple fixed 911 call bug with iOS 10.3 update

Apple’s iOS 10.3 update has solved a vulnerability that allowed iPhones to be tricked into repeatedly dialing 911, The Wall Street Journal reports. Meetkumar Desai was arrested last fall after designing the code, but a link to the code that went viral on Twitter led to pranks causing 911 operators in more than a dozen states to be overwhelmed by accidental 911 calls. The code relied on an iPhone feature that allowed users to place a call simply by pressing a phone number, but the latest update requires users to press a confirmation button before the phone will dial the number. The update will prevent the exploit from being successful even on apps that hadn’t already issued their own fix for the problem.

Barclays predicts True Tone display for all 2017 iPhones, 3D sensors for iPhone 8

The latest investor update from Barclays claims Apple will include True Tone displays in all 2017 iPhone and add new 3D sensors to the iPhone 8 to facial recognition and augmented reality functions, 9to5Mac reports. The researchers said all three of the iPhone models expected to launch later this year will feature the True Tone display first seen in the 9.7” iPad Pro, allowing the devices to use an ambient light sensors to adapt the colors in the display to the light in the room to deliver the best possible color quality. While the OLED screen rumored to be coming in the iPhone 8 will set it apart from the lower-end models, adding True Tone to the full lineup could be a key selling feature in convincing users to upgrade if they’re looking for a reason to justify choosing the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus.

Apple eyes premium cable bundle with HBO, Showtime, Starz

After abandoning efforts to unite network and basic cable channels into an inexpensive cable package, Apple is in talks to sell a premium cable bundle featuring HBO, Showtime and Starz, Recode reports. The company already sells all three channels individually, but has reportedly approached the networks about combining them into a single package. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations said there is no firm deal in place yet and couldn’t cite a target price for the proposed bundle. Buying monthly subscriptions to the individual networks through Apple currently costs $15 for HBO, $11 for Showtime and $9 for Starz.

Apple standing by its commitment to Obama era climate policies

Apple is staying the course on the commitment it made to fight climate change during the Obama administration, despite President Trump’s reversal on his predecessor’s environmental policies. Bloomberg reports that Apple stands with “many of America’s biggest corporations” such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and Wal-Mart in standing by their earlier promises to address climate change issues, including switching to clean energy sources and renewable energy supplies.

iFixit posts teardown of the new iPad

iFixit has posted its teardown of the new 9.7” iPad released this week. Dubbing it the “iPad 5” for clarity’s sake, the teardown reveals that the latest iPad model is basically a merging of the original 2013 iPad Air design with upgraded specs such as a 64-bit A9 CPU and improved cameras. Comparing the new model with the original iPad Air, iFixit notes that the new model does omit the lock switch (which first disappeared on the iPad Air 2), uses smaller microphone holes, and a single row of speaker holes, and also of course adds Touch ID. The teardown report also suggests that the screen used in the new iPad appears to be very similar to that found in the original iPad Air, including an unfused digitizer and LCD and connections compatible with the original iPad Air. iFixit also took comparison photos of the internals of the new iPad and the original iPad Air, revealing that both models look remarkably similar, also sporting the same capacity 32.9 Wh batteries and having similar dimensions.

Unboxing the new 9.7-inch iPad

We’ve just gotten our hands on Apple’s new 9.7-inch iPad and have a quick first look at the new entry-level tablet with a series of unboxing and comparison photos. The images highlight what’s in the box along with the differences between the new device and its small sibling, the iPad mini 4. The new 9.7-inch iPad is essentially the successor to the 2014 iPad Air 2, featuring an upgraded processor while adding a few millimetres to the thickness of the earlier model. The box includes a USB-to-Lightning cable and a 10W USB power adapter. The new iPad ships with iOS 10.3. Be on the lookout for our full, independent, comprehensive iPad review coming later this week once we’ve had a chance to put it through its paces.

MLB.com At Bat and NHL now allow users to personalize Home Screen icons

One of the lesser-known new features in iOS 10.3 is the ability for third-party apps to offer alternative home screen icons, and today the first major apps have been updated for these new capabilities, reports TechCrunch. Both MLB.com At Bat and NHL now provide the ability for users to change the default home screen icon to reflect their favourite team’s logo. Both apps will prompt the user initially to select an icon to use when first re-entering the app or setting up their favourite teams for the first time, however users can change the icon to another team at any time from the app’s settings. Interestingly, for whatever reason icons don’t yet appear to be available for all teams (sorry, Leafs fans).

Apple pulls over-the-air iOS 10.3 update for iPhone 5, 5c; iOS 10.3.2 seems to end support for them

Apple has pulled back the over-the-air update to iOS 10.3 for iPhone 5 and 5c devices without giving any reason, AppleInsider reports. The update was available for a few hours before mysteriously disappearing, despite there being no noted outcry of users who had tried and failed to install the update on the devices. The update can still be installed through the standard process using iTunes, and seems to function fine on an iPhone 5c.

In a related development, The Apple Post has discovered that the beta version of iOS 10.3.2 appears to end support for devices with 32-bit processors — like the iPhone 5 and 5c. The beta only contains restore images for 64-bit devices, hinting at the possibility that 32-bit devices are about to lose support. Apple announced back in 2014 that new apps or app updates would have to support 64-bit processors, and recent speculation has swirled around iOS 11 ending support for 32-bit devices. A warning dialog discovered by developers working with the iOS 10.3 beta stated that apps that have not been updated to include 64-bit support “will not work with future versions of iOS.” Given the new findings in the iOS 10.3.2 beta, the change could come sooner than expected. If so, the 4th generation iPad would also be unsupported as it features a 32-bit processor.

Supplier Responsibility Report, recent hires hint at Project Titan research

Apple’s most recent Supplier Responsibility Report includes a buried connection to an automotive and mobility supplier and may hint at the company acquiring parts for its not-so-secret Project Titan car endeavor, AppleInsider reports. The report includes Bosch as a supplier, which is understandable given that the company produces the barometric sensor for the iPhone 6s, but the facility listed — located in Reutlingen, Germany — is specifically dedicated to research and development on products related to “mobility enhancement,” including automotive devices and wheelchairs. Apple is said to have scaled back Project Titan to focus more on the software and hardware to make cars self-driving rather than building a car from scratch, and it’s still a mystery what types of components the company is buying from the Bosch facility in Germany.

Apple now rejecting apps with references to price in their name

Apple is cracking down on the practice of developers putting “free” in the name of their apps to set them apart from other competing apps, VentureBeat reports. While Apple’s developer guide has long discouraged app makers from making such a blatant move, the company is now outright rejecting apps that make any mention of their price in the name or within screenshots. Submitting an app with “free” in its title now returns the following error message: “Your app’s name, icons, screenshots, or previews to be displayed on the App Store include references to your app’s price, which is not considered a part of these metadata items. Please remove any references to your app’s price from your app’s name, including any references to your app being free or discounted. If you would like to advertise changes to your app’s price, it would be appropriate to include this information in the app description.” Existing apps with “free” in their names are still available on the App Store and seem unaffected, but it’s possible that future updates will be rejected if the name isn’t changed to move into compliance with the new policy. Apple confirmed the change but offered no further comment.

Apple Pay now live in Taiwan

Apple Pay has gone live in Taiwan, making the island nation the 14th country to adopt the mobile payment system. Users can now add MasterCard and Visa cards issued by Cathay United Bank, CTBC Bank, E.SUN Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Taishin International Bank, Taipei Fubon Bank and Union Bank of Taiwan. The China Post reports that The Breeze Center, Far Eastern Department Stores, Sogo, Carrefour and PXMart are among the businesses allowing Apple Pay to be used at all locations. FamilyMarts throughout the country are also jumping on the bandwagon, but currently only allow purchases from users with Taishin International Bank cards, planning to open up sales to those with cards from CTBC Bank, Cathay United Bank and E.SUN Bank in July. Apple Pay faces stiff competition from several existing mobile payment options in the country, as well as Samsung Pay and Google Pay, “which have both been approved by Taiwan’s Financial Supervisory Committee, will reportedly be launching in the country in May.” To drive up interest, several stores are offering promotional events, like Breeze Center’s off of a NT$100 coupon for those spending at least NT$399 on any Thursday of the month.

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