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ESPN to launch $4.99/month standalone streaming service

Disney is set to launch its first direct-to-consumer streaming service in the form of ESPN Plus, providing access to over 10,000 live regional, national, and international games and events a year from all of the usual leagues such as MLB, NHL, and MLS. Disney CEO and Chairman Bob Iger told CNBC that the service will also “include an array of live programming that is not available on current channels” and that it will roll out in the spring alongside a redesign of Disney’s ESPN app. The new service will be priced at $4.99/month and will be available for both iOS and the Apple TV when it launches. [via Engadget]

2017 iPhone models less susceptible to performance throttling

It appears that Apple may have made hardware improvements in its 2017 iPhone models to mitigate the need for the controversial performance throttling experienced by users of iPhone 6, 6s, and 7 series models. A new section in an updated support document on “iPhone Battery and Performance” referenced in the second beta of iOS 11.3 notes:

iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X models use a more advanced hardware and software design that provides a more accurate estimation of both power needs and the battery’s power capability to maximize overall system performance. This allows a different performance management system that more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown. As a result, the impacts of performance management may be less noticeable on iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X.

The support document doesn’t go as far as saying that performance won’t suffer as batteries age in these newer models, but it does suggest that the level of throttling may not be as severe, indicating that Apple was likely able to solve some of the power consumption issues that previously resulted in unexpected shutdowns from older iPhone batteries.

Apple seeds iOS 11.3 beta 2 to developers with promised ‘Battery Health’ feature

Apple has released the second beta of iOS 11.3 to registered developers (a public beta is likely to follow soon), incorporating the promised Battery Health feature that should provide users with more insight into performance throttling that occurs on older batteries. As one might expect, the new feature can be accessed from the Battery section of the iOS Settings app, and provides a percentage indicator showing the battery’s relative health compared to when it was new, along with a section on “Peak Performance Capability.” A note at the top points out that batteries come less effective as they age, and provides a link to an Apple support article on iPhone Battery and Performance.

Apple’s health team loses medical researcher Stephen Friend

Apple has been making some high-profile hires in the medical research world, but one of its recent hires is already departing the company, CNBC reports. Stephen Friend, a well-known medical researcher who joined Apple in 2016 with a background in creating patient-focused research programs, is now listed as an “independent entrepreneur” on his LinkedIn page. The former Harvard Medical School professor joined Stanford’s Dr. Sumbul Desai, the former head of that schools Center for Digital Health as the company was working on “a medical records beta launched with the support of a dozen leading hospitals to aggregate all of this health information in one place.” That beta was released last month, allowing users to store information about allergies, conditions, immunizations, lab results, medications, procedures and other vitals in partnership with hospitals like Cedars-Sinai, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Penn Medicine and the University of California, San Diego.

Apple Music hires music journalist Alex Gale to head up editorial operations

Veteran music writer Alex Gale has been hired to head up Apple Music’s editorial department, Variety reports. Gale has worked as a journalist covering the music industry for Billboard, Vibe, Complex and XXL, and will now be leading the team responsible for all of the written content found on Apple Music and iTunes. Gale is also expected to contribute to Beats 1 and may even cross over into video projects as Apple expands its operations in that area. Gale comes in at a big moment for Apple Music, which is set to surpass Spotify in paid subscribers this year.

Patent application shows Apple considering Apple Pencil that works on any flat surface, in midair

A recent patent spotted by Techtastic shows Apple is considering creating an Apple Pencil that works without an iPad. The patent — credited to three Apple engineers — describes monitoring a stylus using some combination of motion and orientation sensors, cameras and electromagnetic or sound-based triangulation methods to determine the stylus’ position and record its movements. The data would then be processed to create text or drawings.

Apple pulled Telegram app over child pornography concerns, returned it with a fix in place

Apple temporarily pulled the Telegram app from the App Store last week, and now 9to5Mac has confirmed that the app was pulled over the app being used to deliver child pornography. When the app was pulled, Telegram CEO Pavel Durov said Apple had dropped it over concerns about “inappropriate content,” and a e-mail response from App Store head Phil Schiller now confirms his team “was alerted to illegal content, specifically child pornography, in the apps. After verifying the existence of the illegal content the team took the apps down from the store, alerted the developer, and notified the proper authorities, including the NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).” Schiller said his team has worked with Telegram to remove the offending content, ban the users who posted it and verified that the app developer “put in place more controls to keep this illegal activity from happening again” before adding the app back to the App Store.

Nike offering Apple Music, exercise program and merchandise rewards for working out with Nike+ app

Nike is offering a new set of rewards for those using the Nike Run Club and Nike Training Club apps to document their workouts, TechCrunch reports. The NikePlus Unlocks program will provide exclusive playlists from Apple Music, guided meditations from the Headspace app, credits for the ClassPass fitness app and more. Other offers for purchasing Nike gear through the app also have special rewards, like a free four-month subscription to Apple Music for buying certain shoes, for example.

Apple Music on pace to overtake Spotify in number of paid subscribers this year

Apple Music is on pace to overtake Spotify in paid subscribers this year, The Wall Street Journal reports. Spotify is seen to be the dominant force in music streaming, but many of its users aren’t paid subscribers and limit their use to the free, ad-sponsored service. Sources in the record industry said Apple Music has been adding subscribers at a five percent monthly rate, compared with Spotify’s two percent rate. If those rates remain the same, Apple Music will outpace Spotify by this summer, and is already ahead if users on Apple Music’s three-month free trial are taken into account. Apple confirmed that it currently has 36 million paying customers.

Report: Apple to ditch Qualcomm chips completely for Intel versions in 2018 iPhones

Amid Apple’s ongoing legal battle with Qualcomm, KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is now saying the company may be ditching Qualcomm’s baseband chips all together, 9to5Mac reports. Kuo said he expects Apple to use Intel’s chips exclusively in its 2018 iPhones since Intel chips now meet Apple’s technical requirements at a more competitive price, but he added Apple may be forced to return to Qualcomm if it turns out Intel can’t get ready for 5G networks fast enough. Previous reports claimed Qualcomm’s current 5G chips offer more specialized features, but sources said since many of those features won’t be widely adopted by carriers it’s likely Intel’s 5G modem will be more than sufficient for future iPhones.

Some iPhone X users unable to answer calls as screen fails to wake

Some iPhone X users are unable to answer calls because their phone displays aren’t waking up when a call comes in, The Financial Times reports. Users report that the ringtone will play for an incoming call, but the screen won’t wake up for several seconds, sometimes resulting in a missed call. A restart seems to resolve the problem temporarily, but after 15 to 20 calls the problem reappears. Users who have had their iPhone X replaced by Apple are reporting the same issues with the replacement units, but it’s still unclear whether a hardware or software problem is to blame. Apple is “looking into these reports,” but hasn’t provided any further information on a fix.

Apple providing free repairs for ‘No Service’ problem on some iPhone 7 models sold in US

Apple is offering free repairs to certain iPhone 7 models that are showing “No Service” in the status bar even when cellular coverage is available. The company has admitted a component on the logic board on some of the devices manufactured between September 2016 and February 2018 is prone to failure, and users have taken to Twitter to complain that their cellular service and Bluetooth capabilities suddenly stopped working. Models A1660, A1779, and A1780 qualify for the free repair and can be taken to Apple Authorized Service Providers or Apple retail stores to be sent back to the company for repair.

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Report: Apple struggling to police fake apps in Chinese App Store

A new report from TechCrunch suggests that Apple may be struggling to properly vet content in its App Store in China, particularly where copycat apps are concerned. The report cites the example of a Japanese app called “Tabi Kaeru” (“Travel Frog”) that became an unexpected hit in China, resulting in more than 30 knock-off copycat apps looking to profit off its success. While Apple has become very successful at dealing with such apps within the U.S. App Store, the company was clearly not as well-prepared to deal with the issue in the Chinese App Store, where at least one knock-off, an app named 旅行青蛙, managed to not only survive long enough to generate significant revenue for the developer, but also rise to the top of the App Store charts, displacing the original genuine app for the better part of a day.

Apple now selling refurbished iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, Apple TV 4K units

Apple has now begun selling refurbishing iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus and Apple TV 4K models on its U.S. online store for the first time, offering customers a chance to pick up these units at about a 10 percent discount as compared to the prices of brand new models.

Apple loses bid to HBO for new J.J. Abrams show

HBO has beat out Apple in a bid to produce J.J. Abrams latest sci-fi drama project, according to The Hollywood Reporter. HBO got the nod for a straight-to-series order for the new sci-fi thriller, which will be called “Demimonde,” with sources suggesting that Abrams made the call as a result of his impression with what the premium cable network did with “Westworld.” While the move may indicate that despite Apple’s strong original content ambitions and deep pockets, its status as a Hollywood newcomer may hamper its efforts in signing major productions, it’s also worth noting that Apple has already successfully picked up an original sci-fi show from Ronald D. Moore of “Battlestar Galactica” and “Outlander” fame. Sources also suggested to The Hollywood Reporter that Apple’s bid made may never have been under serious consideration in the first place.

YouTube TV now available on Apple TV

Google has announced that its live TV service, YouTube TV, is now available for Apple TV users in the U.S.  For a base $35 monthly cost, the service provides subscribers with more than 40 live channels from major networks such as CBS, Fox, NBC, and CBS, as well as sports networks such as ESPN and Fox Sports. The service also includes unlimited cloud DVR storage.

Apple reports strong Q1 2018 results, iPhone X overwhelmingly popular

Apple has reported its financial results for Q1 2018, reflecting a strong holiday quarter and dispelling recent negative hype about underperforming iPhone X sales. Apple CEO Tim Cook declared it “the biggest quarter in Apple’s history” and emphasized that not only did Apple see “the highest revenue ever from a new iPhone lineup” but that the iPhone X was also the top-selling iPhone every week since it first shipped in November.

Apple Pay is now ‘the world’s most accepted contactless payment technology’

Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey provided some interesting insights into Apple Pay’s growth earlier this month, according to a report by CNET Japan. Addressing attendees at NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show in New York with a speech entitled “The Modern Shopping Experience,” Bailey talked about Apple Pay’s rapid growth and the company’s plans for mobile payments going forward. Bailey noted that the iPhone is leading the mobile e-commerce revolution, with smartphone and tablet based purchase now accounting for 25 percent of transactions in the U.S. — a rate of growth that exceeds the desktop by four times, and traditional retail stores by a factor of 10, and added that similar growth is being seen in other countries such as China.

Gucci adds ‘Year of the Dog’ custom Animoji

Fashion house Gucci has created its own emoji to celebrate Lunar New Year, according to a new report from The Verge. Available as part of Gucci’s mobile app, the new creation takes the form of two Animoji dogs based on Gucci Creative Director Alessandro Michele’s own Boston terriers, further inspired by artworks by Unskilled Worker, a Gucci collaborator. According to the report, the Animoji creations appear to be considerably more limited than Apple’s own built-in Animoji, noting that they “can’t even smile, or look anything other than intimidating and annoyed.” While clearly done as primarily a marketing move on Gucci’s part, it’s probably also just one of the first examples of many more home-grown third-party Animoji yet to come.

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