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Apple releases third iOS 11.3, tvOS 11.3 betas to registered developers

Apple has released the third betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 to registered developers. While iOS 11.3 adds a few interesting new features, the third beta seems to mostly consist of bug fixes and relatively minor improvements, following the introduction of the battery health feature in iOS 11.3 beta 2, although iOS 11.3 beta 3 is also now available for the sixth-generation iPod touch, which was excluded from the two prior betas. It is likely that updated public beta versions will also appear in the next day or two.

Update: MacRumors reports, and we’ve also confirmed, that the third beta of iOS 11.3 also removes support for AirPlay 2 and the Apple TV entry in the Apple Home app. The release notes make no mention of this, so it’s unclear whether these are coming back in a future iOS 11.3 beta or will be pushed off to a later release.

Apple renews Carpool Karaoke for second season

CBS has announced that Apple has renewed Carpool Karaoke for a second season, 9to5Mac reports. The show’s Apple Music version was delayed to scrub the episodes of potentially offensive language and met with mixed reviews after finally being released. Apple has shied away from pushing the envelope in its video content, since the company reportedly plans to release its first few projects to everyone with an Apple device and that leaves top executives hesitant to greenlight anything that parents wouldn’t want kids to see. The first season had to be edited to remove “foul language and references to vaginal hygiene,” so it’s unclear if Apple will make any changes to the production formula for a second season.

Woman credits Apple Watch with saving lives after car crash

A woman involved in a crash with an alleged drunk driver said her Apple Watch allowed her to alert authorities and get help quickly, Shape reports. Kacie Anderson was waiting at a red light with her nine-month-old baby when her car was struck. “The moment he hit us everything inside the car went airborne,” Anderson said. When her phone proved out of reach, Anderson used the SOS feature on her Apple Watch to call 911. Anderson credits the feature with “saving” her and her son after she suffered severe injuries and was unable to move.

HomePod’s embarrasing ‘white ring’ problem on wood surfaces should find quick fix

The vibrations from Apple’s HomePod that are leaving a white silicone ring on wood surfaces treated with oil have marred the product’s launch, but Business Insider thinks a fix won’t be too difficult to implement, according to industry experts. Apple spent a lot of time and effort on getting the sound right, but Ignazio Moresco, a product design expert who has worked at Frog Design, Microsoft and Ericsson, said a “rigorous QA process” should have caught the issue before it was released to consumers. “They didn’t test the product enough and in the right variety of circumstances, especially considering that a wood surface is a very likely support for the product,” Moresco said.

Apple releases iOS 11.2.6 with Telugu character fix, watchOS 4.2.3 and tvOS 11.2.6

Apple has released iOS 11.2.6 with an update that fixes issues with third-party apps connecting to external accessories and a bug causing the Indian Tegulu character to crash Messages and other apps. Apple had fixed the special character bug in the iOS 11.3 beta, but seems to have pushed out the fix early to keep users from having to wait for the next big release. A macOS 10.13.3 update fixes the Tegulu problem for Mac users, and Apple also released tvOS 11.2.6 for Apple TV and watchOS 4.2.3 for Apple Watch.

Happy Presidents’ Day from iLounge

Happy Presidents’ Day from all of us here at iLounge! In observance of the U.S. holiday, alongside Family Day in Canada, we’ll be on a limited publishing schedule today. We will be back to normal updates tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 20. Thanks for reading!

Apple promotes Apple Watch fitness with new ‘Close Your Rings’ page

Apple has launched a new Close Your Rings page, promoting the fitness features of the Apple Watch while also providing basic guidance on how the three activity rings work and some quick tips for staying active and closing them each day. The page provides practical suggestions for each goal, such as “playing chase with your kids” to close the Move ring, using fitness apps to close the Exercise ring, and getting up to visit a co-worker or get some water to close the Stand ring, while also explaining how each ring works and the health benefits related to them. Additional tips are also provided, such as how to add the Activity rings to a watch face, how to change a Move goal, and how monthly challenges, achievements, and sharing all work. [via 9to5Mac]

Nokia rethinking its Digital Health business

Nokia has announced that it is undertaking a “review of strategic options” regarding its Digital Health business, a market that the company entered two years ago when it acquired Withings. The rather brief post highlights the suite of products in the company’s Digital Health portfolio — hybrid smart watches, scales, and digital health devices that effectively all came from the Withings brand — and notes that the review “may or may not result in any transaction and other licensing changes” and that it will make another announcements “if and when appropriate.” While the vague blog post is relatively unclear, the review suggests that Nokia may be considering divesting itself from the health business altogether, after recent reports suggesting that it had overestimated the value of Withings’ assets in the first place, and struggles with regulatory issues that resulted in some features being removed from its products earlier this year. [via The Verge]

iDevices releases ‘Instant Switch’ wireless remote wall switch

iDevices has released Instant Switch, a new accessory designed to provide an easily-mountable wall switch for controlling other accessories within the iDevices ecosystem (HomeKit support does not appear to be included at this time). The battery-powered Instant Switch can be placed anywhere, and pairs with other iDevices products over Bluetooth to provide convenient control of lights and outlets. Instant Switch can be paired with any of iDevices’ wall outlet accessories to switch attached appliances on or off, or even with iDevices’ Wall Switch to easily and inexpensively create a three- or four-way switching solution with no additional wiring required. Instant Switch mounts to a wall using a standard peel-and-stick adhesive, and is also designed to be compatible with any standard rocker faceplate. A pre-installed battery that promises a two-year lifespan is also included. iDevices’ Instant Switch is available now directly from iDevices’ web site for $34.95.

Apple to require all new iOS apps to support iPhone X starting in April

Apple has announced that all new apps submitted to the App Store after April 2018 will be required to support the iPhone X. In an e-mail sent to registered developers, the company heralded the new features that iOS 11 has brought to the iOS platform, adding that “Starting April 2018, all new iOS apps submitted to the App Store must be built with the iOS 11 SDK, included in Xcode 9 or later. All new apps for iPhone, including universal apps, must support the Super Retina display of iPhone X.” Apple’s page on Submitting iOS apps to the App Store also adds that developers should make sure their App Store product page showcases updates for the Super Retina display of the iPhone X, and provides additional tips for developers on how to make sure that their apps look great on the iPhone X and how to submit proper screenshots for their App Store pages.

New iOS 11 bug crashing iPhones when a special character is received

A bug in iOS 11.2.5 has been discovered that’s will crash the iPhone when a specific Indian-language character is received in a text message or e-mail, The Verge reports. Originally discovered by Italian blog Mobile World, the bug affects iPhones running iOS 11.2.5 as well as Messages and Safari on macOS, and has been confirmed as affecting not only the built-in Messages and Mail apps, but also third-party apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Outlook, and Gmail. The crash is triggered when the device receives the Indian language Telugu character, which will cause the iOS Springboard to crash and prevent the affected app such as Messages to open as a result of trying and failing to load the character, at least until the point at which another message is received.

Twelve South adds iPhone X version of its SurfacePad case in exclusive colors

Twelve South has released an iPhone X version of its popular SurfacePad case. Like other SurfacePad cases, this one sticks to the back of the device using the company’s SurfaceGrip adhesive and provides a thin layer of protection around the front and back of the device. The case includes automatic sleep/wake functionality when the case is open and closed. Like previous SurfacePad cases it folds into a stand to watch videos and includes slots to hold credit cards. The $50 case comes in the standard black and also cognac and teal colors specific to the iPhone X.

Apple considering placing orders for Chinese-made memory chips

Apple is considering buying some of the flash memory chips destined for use in the iPhone from Chinese manfacturer Yangtze Memory Technologies, according to Nikkei Asian Review. The little-known chipmaker is set to begin producing NAND flash memory chips this year, but sources close to the discussions with Apple said it will likely be 2020 or later before Yangtze can produce enough parts to meet Apple’s standards. The sources said the chips would be used only in iPhones destined for use in China, where Apple has been facing increasing pressure from the government on multiple fronts. Apple has shown a willingness to work with the Indian government to produce and assemble more of its products locally in exchange for more access to the country’s smartphone market, but it’s unclear if the Yangtze deal is part of any intervention on behalf of the Chinese government. Apple currently buys its NAND flash memory chips from Toshiba, Western Digital, SK Hynix and Samsung Electronics, and the company’s iPhone orders account for 15 percent of all such shipments worldwide.

Apple developing drama based on life of NBA star Kevin Durant

Apple is developing a scripted drama series based on the life of NBA star Kevin Durant, Variety reports. Similar to the series the company produced about Dr. Dre, the new show will explore Durant’s early basketball experiences as an amateur athlete, with an added focus on the “lives of the players, their families, and coaches.” The show — titled “Swagger” — is being produced by Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Television, with Durant listed as an executive producer.

Facebook using iOS app to promote VPN ‘protection’ that also tracks user behavior

Users choosing the “Protect” option in the Facebook iOS app are being sent to download a VPN app that also allows Facebook to track their phone use, TechCrunch reports. Facebook acquired Onavo Protect and its VPN technology in 2013, but iOS users in the U.S. are just starting to see the redirect link in the main Facebook app that leads to the Onavo Protect – VPN Security app in the App Store. The app promises to safeguard private information and provide warnings about malicious websites, but it also gives Facebook the ability to monitor activity across all the apps on a user’s phone. Facebook reportedly uses those insights to spot new apps that are surging with key demographics and decide which apps to buy before they blow up or which features to steal from other successful apps, like when the company undercut Snapchat by adding similar features to Instagram. The Onavo Protect app is currently installed on more than 33 million devices, and it’s unclear how many of those users know just how much of their data is being sent back to Facebook while it’s in use.

Report: Apple Watch sales overtake entire Swiss watch industry for holiday shoppers

Worldwide shoppers in the fourth quarter of 2017 bought more watches from Apple than from every watchmaker in Switzerland combined, according to a new analysis from Statista. While Business Insider still notes that China still sells more watches than any other single country, the Swiss produce the iconic watch brands like Rolex and Swatch that have been staples in the industry for decades. The fact that Apple beat all those watchmakers combined over the holidays further bolsters Apple’s claim that the Apple Watch is the best-selling watch brand in the world.

Apple provides sneak peek inside lab where HomePod was developed

After yesterday’s look at the insides of a HomePod that iFixit ripped apart, today brings a tale from The Loop that includes a peek at all the parts preassembly — and the lab where they were all crafted. Kate Bergeron, Apple’s Vice President for Hardware Engineering, gave the publication a look at the company’s audio lab, where the HomePod and all other sound-related projects from Apple have come to life. Bergeron said the HomePod team started with the simple problem of achieving the same high level of audio quality in any shape of room, and over six years expanded from the audio team to include everything from thermals and computing to power and wireless, not to mention the experts required to craft all the different sensors that let the HomePod answer that first question. Gary Geaves, Apple’s Senior Director for Audio Design and Engineering, said the company has “built up the biggest acoustics and audio team on the planet,” drawing talent from “elite audio brands and universities to build a team that’s fantastic.”

Just-funded Plux wireless charging pad will have room for iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods

With Apple’s AirPower charging pad still yet to be released, competitors have been popping up with their own offerings that provide more features at what could prove to be a lower cost. The recently funded Plux is one of them, offering a 10W fast charging Qi-compatible multi-device charging pad large enough for an iPhone, AirPods and an Apple Watch. The pad also comes with a stand converter that allows for the use of Face ID and Nightstand Mode. While The Apple Post has quoted unnamed Best Buy sources that claim Apple’s AirPower charging pad will debut in March, there’s been no talk about price, so it’s hard to say whether the eventual $89 price of the Plux will be more or less than Apple’s own offering (even though Plux’s promo materials estimates AirPower will cost $199). But it’s very likely the $39 early bird price (still available as of this writing) will be less — even undercutting $60 offerings currently available from Mophie and Belkin while providing a larger surface and a less platter-like appearance. The charger is available in white or black and also comes with an AirPods wireless receiver and AirPods holder.

iHeartRadio editorial content added to Apple News offering

Apple News now features editorial content from iHeartRadio, according to a recent blog post from the music and news provider. While mainly known for its music service, iHeartRadio also generates news content on everything from entertainment and celebrity gossip to sports and politics. The new content is featured in the Entertainment section of Apple News, and iHeartRadio’s radio service is also available on iOS, Apple TV and through CarPlay.

HomePod’s Siri response accuracy lags behind other smartspeaker personal assistants

While Loup Ventures found the HomePod to be the best-sounding smartspeaker on the market, its inquiry also found the device’s Siri responses to be the worst of the pack for correctly answering questions. Siri on the HomePod only answered 52.3 percent of queries correctly, a sharp drop off from Google Home’s 81 percent success rate and even behind Alexa’s 64 percent and Cortana’s 57 percent. While Siri understood most of the questions (99.4 percent), the AI only got about half of them right. Siri shined in answering questions about local retail locations and where to buy certain products, but doesn’t support the questions about navigation directions, calendar dates, email and calling features that are offered with other smartspeaker assistants.

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