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Apple releases iOS 8.3, iCloud Photo Library comes out of beta

Apple has publicly released iOS 8.3, noting more than 50 new fixes and improvements across areas such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, Messages, CarPlay, Family Sharing, Accessibility, Enterprise features, orientation and rotation features, and more. The update also boasts improved performance for launching apps, responsiveness of apps, Messages, Wi-Fi, Control Center, Safari tabs, third-party keyboards, and other features. Notably, with iOS 8.3, Apple has also removed the “beta” label from its iCloud Photo Library feature which debuted last fall, optimizing it to work with the new Photos app now available in OS X Yosemite 10.3.3. Other notable fixes and improvements include a new Emoji keyboard featuring over 300 new characters, the ability to filter out Messages not sent by people in your contacts list, a way to report junk iMessages directly from the Messages app, italic and underline formatting options on the iPhone 6 Plus landscape keyboard, and the ability to remove shipping and billing addresses used with Apple Pay. iOS 8.3 can be downloaded by going to the iOS Settings app and choosing General, Software Update, or by connecting your iOS device to iTunes and using the Check for Update option found on the iTunes device summary screen.

After School app returns to App Store with new safety features

After being pulled from the App Store twice for objectionable content, the anonymous After School app is back with improved safety features, The Daily Dot reports. The app requires students to sign in with Facebook credentials to verify their location and school, then lets them post content anonymously to be viewed by others at their school. Bullies used that anonymity to torment other students, so After School’s parent company, One, spent three months improving the app’s safety. One co-founder Cory Levy said moderators now review every post before it goes live, with a “mature content” filter preventing anyone under 17 from accessing more adult posts. To verify age, the app will require a driver’s license scan. Students posting about harming or killing themselves will be referred to a 24/7 anonymous support team. Threats posted to the app will be flagged by an automated program that emails police and school officials. Even with the new safeguards, the App Store has After School rated 17+ for mature themes, mild sexual content, mild profanity and infrequent references to drug and alcohol use, among other things.

Interview details intricate Apple Watch face design processes

A new Wired interview with Apple human interface chief Alan Dye provides insight into the intricate design process behind some of the Apple Watch’s faces. Dye said that to capture a flower blooming for one Motion face, Apple designers took more than 24,000 photos over 285 hours instead of turning to CGI techniques. The team built a fish tank in its studio to capture jellyfish movements at 300 frames per second for another Motion face, and the Astronomy face starts its path from a user’s precise location on Earth toward the moon. Even seemingly simple decisions like using concentric circles to represent progress toward fitness goals took a year to finalize. Other details include Mickey Mouse’s one-second foot tap, timed so that it’s exactly the same on every Apple Watch. “We have a group of people who are really, really super-talented, but they really care. They care about details that a designer might not show in his portfolio because it’s so arcane. And yet getting it right is so critical to the experience,” Dye said. Apple has released a series of tutorial videos for manipulating Apple Watch’s faces, but customers will have to wait until the watch’s official launch on April 24 for the full experience.

Photos of Apple Watch packaging appear on Instagram

Three photos showing the packaging for an Apple Watch and an individual watch band appeared on Instagram Tuesday. The photos from the Instagram account of Daily Mail employee Jeremy Gan (the account has been made private since the photos were posted) show what appears to a 42mm stainless steel Apple Watch with a Milanese Loop band on a stand inside its packaging. Other photos show the Apple Watch box and what appears to be the light brown Leather Loop band in a separate box. The images haven’t been confirmed as real, but the Daily Mail published its review of the Apple Watch today, so it’s plausible Gan had access to the Apple Watch and its packaging. [via MacRumors]

Photos of alleged iPad mini 4 rear shell appear

New photos and a video alleging to show the rear shell of the next-generation iPad mini have appeared on French blog nowhereelse.fr. The accompanying description notes that the shell includes two rows of ten holes for the speakers on either side of the Lightning port, differing from the number of holes on the current-generation iPad mini. Notably, the report also indicates that the lock switch has disappeared and the new shell appears more similar to the design of the iPad Air 2.

‘Star Wars’ movies available on iTunes April 10

Add the release of the “Star Wars” movie series on iTunes to the list of big things happening for Apple on April 10. A TV ad from Disney and tweets from iTunes confirm SD and HD versions of all six “Star Wars” movies with hours of new bonus extras are available for pre-order in iTunes at $20 each. Reactions on Twitter were mixed, with many complaining that there’s no bundle discount for buying all 6 movies when fans have already bought the films multiple times in various formats. Amazon offers a bundle discount for digital versions of the films that will also be delivered April 10.

Regulators scrutinizing Apple’s streaming music service

Apple’s upcoming subscription music streaming service is facing new scrutiny from federal regulators, the New York Post reports. Sources confirm the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice are holding talks with music industry executives to see if Apple’s attempts to undercut streaming music competitors violate any antitrust laws. European regulators are conducting a similar investigation. Jimmy Iovine, Apple’s executive in charge of the streaming service, has gone on record saying he doesn’t like the way the freemium model employed by services like Spotify devalues music — an argument many record labels have made as well. While Apple’s attempts to negotiate with record labels for lower music prices than those offered to competitors have apparently failed, regulators are investigating whether Apple has made any exclusive deals with labels that would take content away from competing music services. Apple hasn’t announced deals with any major record labels.

HBO Now channel added to Apple TV (Updated)

The much-anticipated HBO Now channel has been added to Apple TV. While the streaming standalone service costs $15 a month, a 30-day free trial is currently being offered. HBO Now iPhone and iPad apps should be appearing in the very near future.

Update: The HBO Now iOS app has also launched.

Apple Watch in-store pickups limited to one per customer

Customers using Apple’s Reserve and Pickup service will only be able to reserve one Apple Watch for in-store pickup, MacRumors reports. All customers will be required to present government-issued photo ID when picking up their reserved watch, and Apple is painting a pretty dire picture for people who miss their pickup appointment or try to game the system. The reservation policy states, “Inventory is subject to change. Your reservation is valid for pickup only at the Apple Retail Store that you selected. If you do not pick up your selected item(s) by the designated date and time, your reservation will be cancelled and your item(s) will be returned to stock. There is a maximum of 1 reservation per customer. Number of reservations may be limited. Apple reserves the right to refuse, limit or cancel a reservation if Apple determines that a customer has provided misleading or fraudulent information and/or abused, disrupted or attempted to circumvent the reservation system.”

Sources claim Apple was planning to allow two reservations per customer as recently as last month, but the limited stock has dropped that number to one. The limit doesn’t apply to pre-orders that will be shipped to homes starting April 24. Walk-in customers can try on a watch, but won’t be able to buy one.

Apple Store employees to direct Apple Watch, Macbook customers online

With very limited quantities of the Apple Watch and 12-inch Macbook likely to be in stores at launch, Apple will be depending on Apple Store employees to steer customers online to place orders, Business Insider reports. In a memo from Apple retail chief Angela Ahrendts, employees are instructed to promote the ease of using the Apple Store app and the company’s online store when customers come in looking for the latest products. “This is a significant change in mindset, and we need your help to make it happen. Tell your customers we have more availability online, and show them how easy it is to order,” the memo reads. As has been previously reported, the Apple Watch won’t be available for walk-in customers to purchase.

Report: Apple acquisition used for App Store ‘Explore’ tab

One of Apple’s small company acquisitions may have resulted in the more convenient search now found in the “Explore” tab in the App Store, according to TechCrunch. Ottocat, a small search startup focused on organizing apps based on “nested” categories, released a beta version of software designed to make it easier to find relevant apps in May 2013, claiming to have indexed every app in Apple’s App Store. By October 2013 the company was gone, with its website simply stating, “Ottocat is no longer available.” Little information is available on Apple’s acquisition of the company, aside from one of Ottocat’s co-founders authoring a patent as an employee of Apple and filing it in November 2013. It’s also unclear whether Edwin Cooper and Michelle Cooper, Ottocat’s founders, are still with Apple, but in June 2014 Apple unveiled the “Explore” tab in the App Store, sorting the store’s offerings into categories and subcategories, as Ottocat claimed to have done the previous year. No one from Apple or Ottocat has responded to the story.

Apple releases Guided Tour videos for Apple Watch

Apple has added four new Apple Watch Guided Tour videos to its website, giving users a general overview of how to operate the watch, in addition to closer looks at Messages, Faces and Digital Touch features on the upcoming device. Other instructional videos for features like Siri, Phone Calls, Music, Apple Pay and Maps are listed as “coming soon.” The videos emphasize how the Apple Watch augments some functions of a user’s iPhone, and the basics of how to customize the look and information displayed on the watch face. Apple begins accepting pre-orders for the Apple Watch at 12:01 a.m. Pacific Time this Friday, April 10.

Apple Maps adds Booking.com and Trip Advisor reviews

Apple has added Booking.com and Trip Advisor reviews to its Apple Maps app — previously, Apple Maps relied solely on Yelp for business reviews. Incorporation of Booking and Trip Advisor is still limited — only one of the three review providers is visible for any one business within Maps, with no clear way to determine which source you’ll be getting. And there’s no way to swap between review providers within the app. However, the addition of Booking seems to add more information about international destinations. Apple hasn’t commented on the additions and still lists Yelp as its sole review provider. [via 9to5Mac]

New Apple TV model won’t support 4K streaming

Apple’s next Apple TV won’t support 4K video streams when it hits store shelves later this year, Buzzfeed reports. With limited 4K programming available and few consumers with 4K-capable TVs or Internet connections, Apple isn’t putting effort into meeting the increased requirements of streaming 4K video until the higher resolution format becomes more commonplace. “4K is great, but it’s still in its infancy,” said one source described as “familiar with Apple’s thinking.” Apple declined to comment.

AppleCare+ for Apple Watch to cost $59 for Sport, $79 for Watch, $999 for Edition

AppleCare+ for Apple Watch will be priced at $59 for the Sport model, $79 for the stainless steel Watch, and $999 for the gold Edition model, according to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. Both sites have alleged internal Apple screenshots of the pricing. AppleCare+ will add an additional year of coverage to the included one-year warranty in the case of the Sport and stainless steel Watch models. Edition customers already get two years of around-the-clock support upon purchasing the $10,000+ Apple Watch model — the $999 price tag will add a third year of coverage.

Samsung to manufacture A9 chip for next iPhone

Samsung will provide Apple with A9 processors for the next iPhone, Bloomberg reports. The rumored move was reported earlier this year, and now appears to be official. Last year, Apple shifted much of its chip manufacturing to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, but the Cupertino company is returning to Samsung, ostensibly to benefit from the South Korean company’s more advanced manufacturing process. As the report notes, TSMC Chairman Morris Chang said last year that he expected his company “would lose ground to Samsung” before “reclaiming the upper hand in 2016.”

Philips announces Hue Go connected lamp

Philips has debuted Hue Go ($100), a new connected LED lamp based on the company’s popular Hue smart LED bulb ecosystem. Powered by a rechargeable internal battery that provides up to six hours of portable power, Hue Go can be taken just about anywhere, allowing you to light up and transform any space in your home. It features a unique, spherical design that provides a balance between functional and aesthetic lighting, and like the Hue bulbs, it can be set to any of more than 16 million colors. Hue Go is fully customizable using the same Hue APIs as Philips’ own apps and the huge variety of third-party Hue apps, allowing users to set location-based geofences, program timers, and light “recipes” for a wide variety of moods and activities. Hue Go is expected to be available in late May or early June.

Apple under EU Commission scrutiny over streaming music service

Apple is under scrutiny from EU regulators concerning its new streaming music service, The Financial Times reports. Likely in response to a formal complaint, the European Commission has contacted several music labels and digital music companies, sending them questionnaires asking for more information about agreement between Apple and the labels. The report notes that the commission is concerned that Apple may use its size and influence to force music labels to abandon licenses that allow competitors such as Spotify to provide free, ad-supported services — something that music executives would reportedly be amenable to as well, based on earlier reports. If the Commission were to find wrongdoing as the result of a formal investigation, it could require changes to Apple’s business practices and possibly even impose hefty fees, however information gathering such as this is normally only a very preliminary step and does not necessarily mean a formal antitrust investigation will even be launched.

Apple wants networks to handle streaming for its web TV service

Apple wants TV networks to “handle the responsibility and cost of the streaming infrastructure” for its web TV service, Re/code reports. While Apple wants to launch its service in the fall, the streaming issue is “one of many unresolved questions,” with executives reportedly hesitant regarding the demand. It’s still too early to tell if this issue could push back the proposed autumn launch, but Apple has been pursuing some kind of TV service for some time now, with many apparent bumps in the road along the way. Additionally, Apple’s attempts at creating its new music streaming service have also reportedly found the company butting heads with others, with little to show for it thus far. Apple declined comment on the new report.

Pandora CFO calls Apple a ‘frenemy,’ says service will be available in CarPlay

Pandora CFO Mike Herring says his company and Apple have a “frenemy kind of relationship going on” with Apple poised to enter the streaming music market, Fox Business reports. The report also notes that “one can expect” Pandora will be integrated into Apple Watch, and Herring said “we’ll definitely be in CarPlay.” While Pandora and Apple have a close partnership — “We were part of what made it fun to have an iPhone,” Herring said — Apple’s development of a streaming music service comes at a time when Pandora’s share price has dropped over uncertainties about royalty rates paid to artists. Herring admits that if royalties go much higher than the current $0.0014 per song, Pandora would have a hard time staying profitable. Even though Pandora is still at the top of the streaming heap with 81 million monthly active users, Apple siphoning off a significant portion of that number would further strain the already struggling company. But since Pandora still owes much of its success to the popular iPhone app, Herring said it’s a “very interesting relationship.”

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