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Noted analyst lists 11 predictions for new iPhone

In a note to investors, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo — who seems to be right about Apple products more frequently than most analysts — has made 11 big predictions about new iPhone models to be released this year. Kuo sees new 4.7-inch and 5.5 inch iPhone models in mass production by late August, but doesn’t think a new 4-inch model is coming in 2015 for those turned off by the new larger iPhones. His predictions for the new “iPhone 6s” and “iPhone 6s Plus” models include Force Touch, an A9 processor with 2GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel camera and a rose gold color option. Here’s the full list:

(1) Force Touch will be the biggest upgraded selling point, but also one of the main bottlenecks of the supply chain. Force Touch can enhance user experience due to more input methods and support of handwritten signatures, which is beneficial for expanding in the commercial market;
(2) Screen will remain at 4.7 and 5.5 inches, with resolution the same as existing models. There will be no new 4-inch model;
(3) There will be an additional casing color, rose gold, matching the rose gold Apple Watch Edition;
(4) The camera will have a pixel upgrade, likely to 12 MP;
(5) One microphone will be added near the speaker to enhance voice quality;
(6) The A9 processor with upgraded 2GB LPDDR4 will be adopted;
(7) The bending issue will be improved by using different casing materials and internal mechanical design changes;
(8) If drop test issues can be resolved, the 5.5-inch model will have a limited number of units with sapphire cover lens;
(9) The recognition rate of Touch ID will be improved further in a bid to promote Apple Pay;
(10) Gesture control support; and
(11) It’s expected that mass production will start in mid-to-late August. Total shipments will be 80-90mn in 2015, with a 2:1 ratio of 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch models.

[via MacRumors]

Apple releases third iOS 8.4 beta to developers

Apple has released its third beta of iOS 8.4 to developers, continuing to focus on the new iOS Music app. Featuring a build number of 12H4098c, the release is also accompanied by a new Xcode 6.4 beta to support the new APIs and development environment. The release notes for this latest beta indicate both improvements and limitations in App Extensions, the iTunes Store, Siri, Videos, and WatchKit, as well as with the new Music app. The new Music app appears to continue having a long list of issues that remain to be addressed, with limited progress since the first beta, although the language of several has been softened from phrases such as “does not work” to “may not work” suggesting that Apple is perhaps slowly working on improvements in these areas.

Apple experimenting with silver nanowire tech for ‘iPad Pro’ touch panel?

Apple has received samples of silver nanowire materials to be used for touch screens in a “large screen iPad, which will be released next year,” Korean outlet ETNews reports. The new material is thinner and more pressure sensitive than the indium tin oxide film used in current touch screen displays, allowing the silver nanowire to be incorporated into thinner devices. The more touch sensitive material could augment Apple’s Force Touch technology, already available in Apple Watch and newer MacBooks, and rumored to be featured in the coming “iPad Pro.” The silver nanowire can even maintain an electrical signal when bent or snapped, making it ideal for use in flexible screens. The material is also cheaper to create because rare materials like indium aren’t required and major display suppliers like LG and Samsung already have the ability to mass produce it. [via Apple Insider]

Fiat CEO meets with Tim Cook over Apple’s ‘intervention in the car’

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said he has met with Apple CEO Tim Cook, but was tight-lipped about the details of the meeting, Reuters reports. Marchionne told the press that Cook is “interested in Apple’s intervention in the car,” but declined any further comment about Apple’s rumored car project. Recently, Marchionne told Bloomberg he was open to the possibility of collaborating with companies like Apple and Google, saying he was intrigued by how tech firms can disrupt marketplaces. “If they show up and they are truly successful, with their cash piles and know-how, they could fundamentally hurt this industry,” Marchionne said. Fiat is an official Apple CarPlay partner.

Apple announces new environmental initiatives in China

Apple is expanding its environmental protection and renewable energy push in China, announcing that it has partnered with World Wildlife Fund to protect up to a million acres of sustainable forest land in China to produce the fiber used in Apple packaging and products. This adds to the 36,000 acres of working forests the company is working to conserve in the U.S. with the help of The Conservation Fund. Apple is also partnering with several Chinese power companies to create two more solar farms. The company’s first solar project in China, started only three weeks ago, will produce enough power to run all of Apple’s corporate offices and retail stores in the country. The additional solar farms will generate up to 80 million kilowatt hours of additional clean energy that Apple can feed back into the Chinese power grid, bringing Apple closer to its goal of running its operations on 100 percent renewable energy.

With the company sitting at 87 percent now, CEO Tim Cook acknowledged the large scale of the task — especially since much of the environmental fallout related to Apple products comes from third-party suppliers out of the company’s direct control — but doubled down on the company’s commitment to achieving it. “This won’t happen overnight — in fact it will take years — but it’s important work that has to happen, and Apple is in a unique position to take the initiative toward this ambitious goal. It is a responsibility we accept. We are excited to work with leaders in our supply chain who want to be on the cutting edge of China’s green transformation,” Cook said.

Apple streaming music service to provide limited free listening options

Apple is apparently looking at options to provide limited free listening options for users of its new streaming music service, Re/Code reports. While Apple still doesn’t intend to offer a free tier, the new report suggests that some limited listening options will be available, designed to push users toward the paid streaming model. Industry sources have suggested that Apple is considering offering free trial periods of one to three months and a feature that will allow labels to provide a sampling of songs that users can listen to. Sources also note that Apple intends to not only continue offering its free, ad-supported iTunes Radio service, but is expected to be working to enhance it, having acquired new talent expressly for this purpose.

First Nintendo mobile game expected to arrive this year

Nintendo may be on track to release its first iOS game later this year, according to details revealed in the company’s Financial Results Briefing. Back in March, reports surfaced that the company was partnering with DeNA to allow its intellectual property to be used on non-Nintendo mobile hardware. The latest report refers rather obliquely to games for “smart devices,” making it unclear which platforms the company may be targeting for the initial release, however the current plan suggests that the company will debut one title later this year, with four more expected to arrive by March 2017. Nintendo chief Satoru Iwata’s comments make it clear that the company is taking a cautious and measured approach to ensure that customers will “appreciate the quality” of the games developed for smart device platforms, with designs intended to “match the play styles” of other devices, as opposed to simply being direct ports, and that the company will “carefully select appropriate IP and titles for our smart device deployment.” Iwata goes on to state that five titles is “not a small number at all” and that it “should demonstrate our serious commitment to the smart device business.” [via Engadget]

Ericsson continues Apple patent suit in Europe

Continuing a legal battle that began in January with Apple, Reuters reports that Ericsson has now filed patent infringement lawsuits in Germany, Britain, and the Netherlands. The legal actions, which concern licensing fees and royalties over LTE patents, were escalated in February as the Swedish company filed seven additional lawsuits in the U.S. and asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to investigate. The dispute began after the two companies were unable to come to an agreement on appropriate licensing arrangements, even after offers of arbitration. Ericsson now claims that Apple is infringing on as many as 41 patents related to mobile device communications, user interfaces, battery conservation, and the operating system itself, while Apple insists that Ericsson is demanding excessive royalties for its LTE patents and that the patents are “not essential to industry cellular standards.”

Music services accuse App Store pricing of being anticompetititve

Following reports earlier this week that Apple has been using its influence to encourage record labels to kill off free streaming licenses for services like Spotify and YouTube, some services are accusing Apple of anticompetitive pricing as a result of its App Store subscription model. Several music industry sources have spoken with The Verge, strongly calling out Apple for the thirty percent cut that it takes from all in-app subscriptions, which of course includes subscriptions to services such as Spotify and Rdio. While the sources acknowledge that some fee for administrative overhead is reasonable, the feeling is that a 30 percent cut is excessive.

The sense is that Apple gets an unfair pricing advantage for its own upcoming streaming service, as other services are forced to either give up 30 percent of their base fees to Apple, or raise their prices for in-app subscriptions to make up the difference. While most of these services provide alternate methods for purchasing subscriptions outside of the App Store, such as visiting the company’s web site directly, Apple’s App Store Guidelines specifically prohibit redirecting users to a web site or even providing this information in the app itself, resulting in many users not being aware of another way to purchase a subscription.

OpenTV sues Apple for alleged patent infringement

A civil suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court accuses Apple of violating five OpenTV streaming video patents, Re/code reports. OpenTV is requesting unspecific damages for patents it says Apple used illegally in iTunes software for securely downloading or streaming rented movies. OpenTV technology powers on-demand video services and digital video recorders and has been licensed by other giants in the streaming video business, such as Google and Disney, according to the suit. Apple couldn’t be reached for comment.

Report: Apple still missing key music streaming deals in time for WWDC debut

Apple is missing some key music licensing deals for its upcoming streaming service, according to a new report from Billboard. While several reports have suggested that the company has been targeting June’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) to debut the new service, industry sources have told Billboard that as of now Apple doesn’t have the necessary licensing deals in place as of yet. While at least one source notes that a June launch might be “still attainable” due to Apple’s past track record of quickly securing licensing deals, another major label source is cited as suggesting that the launch “isn’t coming soon” as “the deals aren’t done” and there isn’t enough time to make it happen.

Apple TV adds Shomi, CraveTV channels in Canada

In addition to the CBS Sports and USA Now channels added to the Apple TV in the U.S., Canadian users are getting a nice bonus with the addition of Bell’s CraveTV and Rogers and Shaw’s Shomi streaming TV services. Similar to Hulu in the U.S., CraveTV and Shomi are designed to provide domestic alternatives to Netflix, albeit with a stronger focus on television content than movies. CraveTV is available to existing Bell subscribers for an additional $4/month while Shomi charges $9/month for non-Rogers and Shaw subscribers while including the service for free in most cable TV and Internet packages. Apple TV is one of the first third-party set-top boxes to get support for either of the new services; CraveTV was previously only available on Bell’s own Fibe receivers, while Shomi has up until now been limited to Rogers/Shaw cable boxes and the Xbox. Both services also continue to provide web-based playback and iOS apps for portable device playback.

Apple TV adds CBS Sports, USA Now channels

Apple TV has gained two more channels today, as CBS Sports and USA Now have been added to the main menu. CBS Sports offers free clips from a number of shows — mostly sports discussion — which can be sorted by show or sport. USA Now also offers free clips from shows on the USA Network, but cable authentication is required to view full episodes. These two new channels follow another recent addition, NBC Sports Live Extra, which debuted last week.

GE’s intelligent LED lightbulbs will work with HomeKit

GE is building intelligent, color-changing LED lighting that will be compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, GE CEO Beth Comstock said during the company’s Connected Future event. GE’s Align technology allows users to automate lighting based on the body’s sleep cycle, producing a bright blue tone during the day to suppress melatonin production and a warmer amber light at night to encourage sleep. HomeKit will allow the lighting to be controlled by Apple devices and to integrate with other connected devices. The connection between the bulbs and iOS device will be authenticated and protected by end-to-end encryption to prevent tampering. GE plans to make the intelligent bulbs available later this year.

Apple releases band design guidelines for Apple Watch

Apple has laid out its guidelines for third-party developers looking to make bands for the Apple Watch. The document comes with only two basic guidelines — the band must securely attach to the watch and not hinder its operation — but there are still plenty of other restrictions. Most notably, bands are prohibited from integrating magnetic chargers or using certain materials that don’t meet environmental standards. No mention is made of the watch’s diagnostic port, located in the slot where the bottom band fastens to the watch. Bands will have to fasten tightly enough to keep the watch’s sensors in contact with the user’s skin while remaining comfortable. The bands must pass corrosion tests and resist efforts to pull the band off, while still providing easy detachment when a user wants to remove the band. Apple provides specifications for creating the special lugs used to secure bands to the Apple Watch, but the homepage for the new guidelines says Apple will be making its own lugs available to developers soon through the Made for Apple Watch program.

New Apple TV remote to have touchpad

The Apple TV remote is getting a touchpad when Apple debuts the new Apple TV this summer, The New York Times reports. An employee briefed on the product said the remote will have two physical buttons and the touchpad, which will be used for scrolling. The new remote will also be thicker than the previous model. Apple declined comment.

Report: New 12.9” iPad will feature Force Touch, Bluetooth stylus, NFC

A person familiar with Apple’s product plans told Apple Insider that the company’s new 12.9-inch “iPad Pro” will feature the Force Touch technology featured in the Apple Watch and new MacBook. The new touchscreen will sense different amounts of pressure from fingertips or the accompanying Bluetooth stylus, providing pressure-sensitive output. An alleged NFC radio inside the device will make for easier pairing of the stylus with the iPad and also allow the new device to serve as a payment receiving terminal for Apple Pay, although tap-to-pay functionality is unlikely. A USB-C port is also likely — cases based on alleged “iPad Pro” designs have included spaces for two port openings.

Apple asking music labels to kill Spotify’s free streaming tier

Apple is trying to convince record labels not to renew Spotify’s license to stream music for free, drawing even more scrutiny from the Department of Justice, The Verge reports. Apple’s aggressive attempts to undercut the competition ahead of releasing its upcoming subscription music streaming service have already drawn attention from regulators in the the U.S. and Europe. If successful, this latest gambit would leave an estimated 45 million free Spotify users without the free listening option, putting Apple in a prime spot to grab new users by offering exclusive content that the paid tier of Spotify doesn’t have. Sources also told The Verge that Apple has offered to pay YouTube’s music licensing fee to Universal Music Group if the label will pull its songs from YouTube. Apple is expected to launch the new streaming service at WWDC in June.

Apple updates support article confirming Apple Watch tattoo issue

Apple has quietly updated its support article on the Apple Watch heart rate feature, confirming the issue that was reported earlier this week by users with wrist tattoos having problems getting accurate readings. 

Permanent or temporary changes to your skin, such as some tattoos, can also impact heart rate sensor performance. The ink, pattern, and saturation of some tattoos can block light from the sensor, making it difficult to get reliable readings.

Apple had previously noted possible limitations with the sensor, indicating that a “small percentage of users” might not be able to get the heart monitor to work at all due to “various factors.” While it’s unclear whether Apple was specifically referring to tattoo-related problems is unclear, however a number of users have reported not only issues with getting the heart rate sensor to work, but also situations where the Apple Watch wrist detection security feature is triggered when placed on top of a black tattoo, requiring the user to enter a password each time the watch is awoken from sleep, and rendering Apple Pay unusable. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple reportedly hires four more producers from BBC Radio 1

Apple has been poaching more radio producers from BBC, according to a new report from Music Business Worldwide. On the heels of the recent move of BBC Radio 1 personality Zane Low to Apple in March, the report notes that four other producers from BBC Radio 1 have been hired by Apple, including Lowe’s former producer, James Bursey, who apparently is already headed to Los Angeles to work with Lowe. Three other BBC producers are expected to join Apple at the end of the month to work from the company’s London office, rumored to possibly include Natasha Lynch and Kirean Yeates, star producers responsible for the Huw Stephens show and BBC Introducing, respectively.

While MBW suggests that all of these recent hires, including Zane, are geared directly toward Apple’s upcoming Beats-based streaming service, it’s notable that earlier reports suggested that Zane, at least, was hired to play a role in redesigning iTunes Radio to “bear some resemblance to a traditional radio station,” suggesting that the addition of other talent from BBC Radio may also be directed toward the same project.

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