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Apple bans ‘tips’ in popular Chinese social media apps, equates them to in-app purchases

Apple has told several Chinese social-networking apps, including WeChat, that the popular “tip” functions in their apps are in violation of App Store policies, according to a new report by the Wall Street Journal. Executives at WeChat and other companies have told the WSJ that Apple has deemed the “tip” feature in their apps, which allows users to send money to content creators, to be equivalent to in-app purchases, thereby entitling Apple to a 30 percent cut of the revenue involved. As most of the social networking apps involved typically offer these capabilities for free to encourage user engagement, Apple’s decision is naturally not sitting well with industry executives, who feel that Apple “gets 30% for doing nothing” when even the companies themselves aren’t making any money directly from the feature. Apple has informed at least two of the developers that unless they make the necessary changes, no further updates of their apps will be accepted, and the apps in question may even be removed from the App Store.

Google launches The Google Assistant, announces Google Photos improvements

At Google’s annual Google I/O conference, the company announced several Google product enhancements coming to its iOS offerings, including the release of The Google Assistant, improvements coming to Google Photos, and a new Smart Reply feature for Gmail on iOS.

As rumoured earlier this week, Google took the wraps off The Google Assistant today, announcing its availability on any iPhone running iOS 9.1 or later. Google also announced several general enhancements to the service that will also be available on iOS, including the ability to schedule new calendar appointments and create reminders using Google Home, making hands-free calls to mobile and landline phones in Canada and the U.S. for free, and access music, movies, and TV shows from Spotify, Soundcloud, Deezer, HBO NOW, CBS All Access, and HGTV. Assistant is also coming to Chromecast later this year, providing visual responses on users’ TV screens. Google also announced plans to add a new feature, dubbed Google Lens, to Assistant to allow users to take action based on data from their iPhone camera, such as reading a marquee to pull up relevant concert information. Google Assistant remains available only in the U.S. for now, however Google also announced that it plans to roll the service out to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan later this year.

Qualcomm sues Apple suppliers over withholding royalties

Qualcomm is suing four Apple suppliers over withholding royalties, Reuters reports. The move is the latest in an ongoing battle between Qualcomm and Apple over licensing payments Qualcomm charges for the use of patents the company holds on several integral components used in iPhones. Apple suspended all licensing payments to Qualcomm last month, and Qualcomm’s latest filing goes after Foxconn, Pegatron, Wistron and Compal Electronics for their part in the proxy war. “While not disputing their contractual obligations to pay for the use of Qualcomm’s inventions, the manufacturers say they must follow Apple’s instructions not to pay,” Qualcomm said in a statement. Apple has agreed to indemnify its partners against any damages resulting from their refusal to pay Qualcomm, but Qualcomm is now seeking a court order to force the manufacturers to comply with existing contractual obligations.

Apple begins production of iPhone SE in India

In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Apple confirmed it has started production of the iPhone SE in Bangalore and plans to start shipping the devices to customers in India this month. Sources close to the production said the first handsets could hit store shelves as early as this week, although it’s unclear how much the phones will cost. Indian government officials say they’re hopeful the final price will land somewhere near $200, but resellers are currently charging around $320 for the iPhone SE.

Apple launches new site for Today at Apple educational programs

Apple has launched its Today at Apple website to support the company’s new educational programs, allowing users to select their local Apple Store and see which programs are available. The site provides the ability to sort by date and type of training, and adds in results from nearby Apple Stores to expand the range of programs that users can select. Clicking on the Details button attached to any event provides a brief description of the training offered and directions for those looking to attend. All of the programs are free to attend. On a related note, Apple Stores around the world revamped their store layouts last night to accommodate the new requirements for the tutorials.

Apple Pay goes live in Italy

Italy has become the 15th country to adopt Apple Pay, supporting Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards issued by Carrefour and UniCredit backs as well as Boon prepaid cards. Apple also recently added a German translation of its Apple Pay guide to it website, but negotiations in that country are apparently not going well according to iPhone Ticker, with banks pushing back against the fees Apple demands from them when customers use the service.

Apple releases betas for iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, watchOS 3.2.3

Yesterday Apple released developer betas for iOS 10.3.3, tvOS 10.2.2, and watchOS 3.2.3. The betas include minor updates and bug fixes, but Apple seems to be saving its big updates for iOS 11, expected to be debuted next month and WWDC before landing on devices whenever Apple’s new iPhones are released later this year.

Report: Apple to discontinue iPad mini

A new report from BGR claims Apple is preparing to discontinue the iPad mini. When it debuted in 2012 the iPad mini occupied a useful niche between the small iPhone and the much larger iPad, competing with the popular Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire. But with 5.5” iPhones encroaching on the smaller tablet’s main selling point — size — a source now claims Apple is experiencing “fierce cannibalism of our own products” and says the iPad mini has been “sized out of its own category.” Apple hasn’t updated the iPad mini since 2015 and recently ditched the 32GB iPad mini 4 from its online store, lowering the price of the 128GB model to $399. The sources weren’t clear however on whether Apple will simply continue to go on selling the device without updating it or plans to pull it entirely in the near future.

Apple looking for someone to head up video programming strategy

Apple is looking for someone to lead its video programming strategy efforts, The Information reports. People familiar with the matter said Apple has talked to former HBO programming head Michael Lombardo, who left HBO early last year to focus on his own production projects. Sources at Apple claim the company is actively looking to fill the role, but what types of video content viewers could end up getting from the arrangement is still an open question. Apple has been all over the place with its video strategy, often publicly claiming its video moves are simply made to boost Apple Music while continuing to discuss possible deals with the likes of Paramount Pictures and Sony, all the while adding that the company isn’t ruling any kind of video content out if they find it interesting. Some of the discord stems from several Apple executives — including Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services, Robert Kondrk, VP of Apple Content and Media Apps, and Apple Music chief Jimmy Iovine — all working to arrange their own exclusive deals, which may be why the company is looking to put one person at the helm.

Apple patents construction method for cylindrical device that could be Siri speaker

Apple has been granted a patent for techniques to mount multiple components inside a cylindrical device, fueling further speculation that the device in question is the rumored Siri speaker. The patent covers the methods used in mounting speakers, microphones, sensors, lights, touch displays and other electronic parts so that they will lay flush with an outer cylinder-shaped casing. Methods for using gaskets to surround components to seal them against the outer wall while still allowing for openings for acoustics and airflow are of particular interest, since this would be necessary for the multiple-speaker setup rumored to be coming in the Siri speaker. While the Mac Pro is also assembled inside a cylinder, the methods outlined in the new patent provide for a more sealed off device. [via AppleInsider]

Apple making app-specific passwords mandatory to access iCloud with third-party apps

Starting June 15, Apple is making it mandatory for users to set unique passwords for third-party apps before they can access a user’s iCloud data, according to email notices sent out by Apple Support. To create the app-specific passwords, users will have to enable two-factor authentication for their Apple ID and generate passwords for any third-party app accessing mail, contact and calendar items. The change can be made in the App-Specific Passwords section under the Security heading ifter logging in to the Apple ID account page. While Apple has had two-factor authentication available for about four years now, the company has been taking more steps in recent months to encourage users to switch over to it, enabling it by default in iOS 10.3, and now making it mandatory for users of third-party apps — ostensibly to protect a user’s Apple ID password from being unwittingly compromised by a third-party app whose security the company has less control over. [via Apple Insider]

Apple releases iOS 10.3.2, tvOS 10.2.1, watchOS 3.2.2, iTunes 12.6.1

Yesterday Apple released iOS 10.3.2, tvOS 10.2.1, watchOS 3.2.2, and iTunes 12.6.1, all of which focused on minor improvements and bug fixes to previous versions. We’ll update if we find anything worth noting, but Apple is likely saving any big software developments for WWDC next month.

Google Assistant reportedly coming to iOS soon

Siri is about to have some more competition, with Google Assistant set to release on iOS “soon,” according to Android Police. A source said the announcement could come as soon as this week’s Google I/O conference. The report is short on details, but speculates that the app could feature a blend of the voice-activated version on Android devices and the chat-style functionality see in Google’s Allo messaging app. The app is expected to only be available in the US at launch. [via 9to5Mac]

Philips adds new Hue White Ambiance bulbs, fixtures and table lamps

Philips has announced a new line of fixtures, new table lamps and a brand new type of bulb to expand its Hue White Ambiance line. The company’s Hue White Ambiance HomeKit-enabled lighting system allows for the color of a room’s lights to be changed from warmer to cooler in addition to being able to be dimmed, and Philips is adding a 40W-equivalent candle bulb ($30) to its existing slate of bulbs, available for pre-order starting in June before it begins arriving in stores in July. The company is also offering a brushed aluminum Being Flushmount light fixture and three different styles of the Fair fixture (Flushmount, Semi-flushmount and Suspension), all of which have Hue White Ambiance connected lighting technology built-in. New Wellner and Wellness lamps have also been added to expand the areas where a connected bulb can be of use. Philips said the new fixtures and lamps (starting at $100) are available for pre-order online now, but we haven’t seen them appear in the company’s store yet. The full line is expected to hit store shelves in mid-July.

Analysts see wireless charging, AR applications in Apple’s Corning investment

Apple has invested $200 million in Corning’s “revolutionary glass production methods,” sparking speculation that new glass breakthroughs could aid in the development of new features in future Apple devices, CNBC reports. Apple has been dealing with Corning for a decade—ever since the first iPhone—and Oppenheimer analyst Andrew Uerkwitz thinks the new investment backs up previous reports that Apple’s new generation of iPhones will use glass or ceramics to facilitate wireless charging. “Metal can interfere with wireless charging technology,” Uerkwitz said. “That means you need glass on the back of the phone, but glass that won’t break. Or you need to use ceramics. Corning has a long history of investing in both glass and ceramics.”

Apple acquires ‘dark data’ company Lattice Data

Apple has acquired “dark data” company Lattice Data for around $200 million, TechCrunch reports. Founded in 2015, the company has produced its own AI-enabled inference engine to convert unstructured “dark data” into more structured and usable information. A source claims Apple closed the deal a couple of weeks ago, adding around 20 of the company’s engineers to its ranks. Apple confirmed the acquisition with its usual blanket statement, but gave no indication of how the technology would be used. The company has boosted its research into AI, with CEO Tim Cook sharing his hopes that the technology will transform the way people use their phones “in ways that most people don’t even think about.” The company recently joined the Partnership on AI and began allowing employees to publish their AI research.

Analyst predicts new 10.5” iPad Pro will be revealed at WWDC

Respected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims there’s an “over 70 percent” chance that Apple will debut a 10.5” iPad Pro during its WWDC conference next month, AppleInsider reports. Kuo said suppliers are ramping up to begin mass production in early June for the new tablet, which sill be a similar size to the current 9.7” iPad Pro but feature a larger display because of narrower bezels. Other analysts claimed the 10.5” device would launch this spring, but that window is rapidly closing. The analyst also shared some new details about the rumored Siri-enabled home speaker, which he thinks has a 50 percent chance of debuting at WWDC as well. Kuo thinks the device will feature some physical controls in addition to being voice activated, but whether those controls will be basic buttons or a touch screen is still unclear. Other reports have also predicted the device will feature some form of manual controls.

Legend of Zelda game coming to iOS

Nintendo will be adding a Legend of Zelda game to its growing list of iOS titles, The Wall Street Journal reports. Sources said the game is set to be released after the iOS Animal Crossing title debuts later this year, but warned that Nintendo could always change the timing and order of its releases. The Animal Crossing game has already been delayed once. No information on pricing was mentioned, and the company has dabbled in different pricing models, with Super Mario Run costing $10 but other games only charging for in-app purchases. Sources also said The Pokémon Company is planning a new card-game app after the runaway success of Pokémon Go, but neither Nintendo nor The Pokémon Company commented on the story.

Apple publishes ‘How to shoot on iPhone 7’ tutorial series

Apple has posted a new web page with a series of tutorials on taking great photographs using the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Titled How to shoot on iPhone 7, the page hosts sixteen tutorial videos ranging from basics such as taking great portraits, close-ups, and action shots, to more advanced techniques such as shooting from unique angles, working with street lights and backlit subjects, and taking photos during the golden hour. Each video is brief and to the point, running only 30–40 second in length with three to four clear steps presented to accomplish each action, and only background music without narration. The first five videos in the series have also been published on Apple’s YouTube channel.

Report: Apple to announce Prime Video for Apple TV at WWDC

Following a report last week that Apple and Amazon were close to sorting out their differences preventing Amazon Prime from coming to the Apple TV, Buzzfeed News now reveals that the two companies are preparing to make an announcement to this effect at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Citing “sources in a position to know,” the report suggests that not only will Amazon Prime’s video app make its debut on the Apple TV at the June event, but that the set-top box will also see a return to Amazon’s virtual shelves — a logical move considering that Amazon’s rationale for banning sales of the device in 2015 were due to its lack of support for Amazon Prime.

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