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HomePod gains News support in Canada, France, and Germany ahead of launch

Apple’s HomePod now has the ability to read the news in Canada, France, and Germany, MacRumors reports, three days ahead of its scheduled launch in those countries. Although it wasn’t entirely clear whether news support for those countries would be included in the HomePod when it debuted next week — Apple’s iOS News app remains limited to the U.S., U.K., and Australia, for example — it turns out that Apple has been able to bake in support for a variety of news sources in each country, including CBC, Global TV, CTV, and CNN in Canada, and Deutschlandfunk, Tagesschau in 100 Sekunden, ZDF heute Express, and Weltnewscheck in Germany.

ArmourGrid’s new Family Kuvrr app provides innovative child safety monitoring

ArmourGrid has launched Family Kuvrr, a new safety app that provides smart monitoring and protection for the whole family against a number of common digital and physical threats.The app’s comprehensive set of features includes intelligent monitoring of app usage, web browsing, call history, location history, and text messages that can alert parents of incidents of cyberbullying, sexting, solicitations, drugs, improper emoji texts, and other issues based on matching texts, images, and videos against known threats in the Family Kuvrr databases. A “Smart Geo” feature provides the ability for family members to keep track of each other’s locations and create personalized “geo-fences” that will alert a parent, guardian, or older sibling when another family member enters or leaves specific locations, such as leaving school, arriving home, or entering unsafe areas. The app also provides an SOS alert feature to allow any family member to quickly send an emergency alert to the rest of the family, including a text/email/app notification with the user’s location, along with opening up a live audio/video stream so that other family members can assess the situation right away, and also includes roadside assistance in the U.S. and Canada as part of the annual membership plan. Family Kuvrr is available in a basic free version, or users can sign up for a Premium ten-member plan for $2/month or $10/year; a Premium+ plan is also available for larger families — up to 20 members — for $3/month or $20/year. A 30-day free trial is also available. The app is available on both iOS and Android platforms, and ArmourGrid notes that some features “may have limited availability on iOS due to iOS restrictions.”

Apple Maps search and navigation features down

In a rare outage, Apple Maps’ search and routing/navigation features are down this morning, affecting users’ ability to search for new locations and get directions in Apple Maps. The issue also affects entering locations in Apple’s iOS and macOS Calendar and Reminders apps, since they use the same Apple database to look up their information. The issue does not appear to affect the simple display of Apple Maps, and traffic information also remains available despite the outage. Further, it appears that users are still able to search for and find locations from their search history, although directions are not available even in these cases. This issue is clearly with Apple’s back-end databases and is therefore affecting Apple Maps on all platforms, along with any other apps that use Apple’s Maps APIs to look up address information. It’s not clear how long the outage will last, although user’s can check the current status on Apple’s System Status page.

ElcomSoft’s forensic tools actually confirm security of Messages in iCloud

Elcomsoft has announced that its latest Phone Breaker forensic tool can now access messages stored in iCloud from devices running iOS 11.4 or later, but the requirements for doing so actually serve to illustrate how secure the feature actually is. Elcomsoft notes that “Apple protects iMessages with a strong protection mechanism much like the one that is used to protect the iCloud Keychain,” adding that Apple even takes it one step further by requiring devices participating in Messages in iCloud to use two-factor authentication, and that all messages are “securely encrypted with a key that is encrypted with devices’ lock screen password.” Apple also specifically states in a support article that the user’s “messages are encrypted on your device and can’t be accessed by anyone without [the] device passcode.”

Apple confirms security lockdown of Lightning port in iOS 12

Apple has confirmed plans to tighten security in iOS 12 to block the use of external hacking devices such as Grayshift’s GrayKey box by locking down the Lightning port on iOS devices, Reuters reports. A feature recently discovered in iOS 11.4 was designed to prevent the Lightning port from accepting USB device connections when nothing had been connected in seven days, and after the first iOS 12 beta came out, it was discovered that the feature had been adjusted to reduce the time limit down to a mere one hour — meaning that when connecting a USB device to an iPhone running iOS 12, users will be prompted to unlock their iPhone unless a USB device has already been connected in the past hour. While Apple had previously been silent on the issue, this week an Apple spokesperson confirmed to Reuters that the feature is being implemented, but clarified that the move is being undertaken to protect all customers, and not specifically to thwart law enforcement efforts, as some have suggested.

Apple Support iOS app expands to 20 more countries, nine more languages

Apple has released an update to its Apple Support app, noting support for “over 20 new countries and regions” along with the addition of Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, and Russian language support. While the release notes aren’t specific on which new countries are available, the additional languages provide some indications, and Apple adds that users can now find solutions in their preferred languages, regardless of their actual location; users could previously only use the default language(s) for their country.

Apple releases second watchOS 4.3.2 developer beta

Apple has released a second beta of watchOS 4.3.2 to registered developers. Featuring a build number of 15U5062a, the latest beta follows release of new iOS 11.4.1 and tvOS 11.4.1 betas earlier this week and contains similarly empty release notes, suggesting that the newest beta includes on extremely minor fixes. With watchOS 5 already in the early beta stages, it seems likely that this may be the last watchOS 4 release.

Apple cracks down on contact harvesting

Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines have been getting a number of interesting tweaks since WWDC last week, including loosening restrictions on apps like Valve’s Steam Link, opening up a bit on free trials, and banning cryptocurrency apps, and Bloomberg has discovered another interesting clause that has Apple slamming the door on apps that harvest a user’s contact information to build databases of a user’s friends and other contacts. Apple has expanded Section 5.1.2 on “Data Use and Sharing,” adding new clauses that explicitly prohibit apps from building a database of user data or even “surreptitiously” building profiles on users.

Apple expands Siri support for World Cup, adds new themed content

Apple is going all-out for the 2018 World Cup tournament, announcing expanded support, coverage, and tournament-related content throughout multiple apps and services. In addition to the 26 other countries in which sports information is already generally available via Siri, users in Brazil, Russia, Denmark, Finland, Malaysia, Turkey, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Israel will also be able to ask Siri for scores, schedules, standings, and team rosters. The editorial team on the new App Store will also be highlighting the favorite apps and games of various football stars and posting other articles with tips for following the games, including key apps for following and watching the tournament. Users in the U.S. and Canada can follow the action through the Sports feature in Apple’s TV App, and will even be able to favorite specific teams to follow their matches in the “Up Next” section and get notifications of when teams are playing or when games are close.

Vague rumour suggests Apple may switch to USB-C ports for 2019 iPhones

A vague rumour from DigiTimes suggests that Apple may in fact be planning to phase out the Lightning port on next year’s iPhone models in favor of a USB-C port. While recent reports make it seem likely that Apple will actually begin bundling a USB-C charger in this year’s iPhones, the DigiTimes report suggests the possibility of native USB-C support on the iPhones themselves. Although as MacRumors notes, the wording is quite vague, it does seem odd that DigiTimes would make the prediction for 2019 if it was simply referring to a change to the charger and cable, unless the report is suggesting that Apple may not be planning to include the USB-C charger with its 2018 iPhones. Of course, it’s also worth keeping in mind that DigiTimes has not been a particularly reliable source of pre-release information, so such rumours should be taken with the appropriate grain of salt.

Apple bans cryptocurrency mining apps

Amidst Apple’s other recent updates to its App Store Review Guidelines last week, AppleInsider has discovered a section explicitly prohibiting cryptocurrency mining apps. Tucked away in the “Hardware Compatibility” section is a prohibition on apps running “unrelated background processes” that specifically mentions cryptocurrency mining as an example, and an entirely new section, 3.1.5 (b) has been added under “3.1 Payments” specifically outlining restrictions on cryptocurrency mining apps.

Apple releases second round of iOS 11.4.1 and tvOS 11.4.1 betas to developers

Despite last week’s first beta releases of iOS 12 and tvOS 12, Apple is still continuing to run the beta cycle for iOS 11.4.1 and tvOS 11.4.1 in parallel, with second betas for each released today. Notably, watchOS 4.3.2 has not yet received a second beta, although that may still come later this week. As with the first betas, the basically empty release notes indicate that these release are focused on fixing bugs and other issues that are too minor to even be noteworthy.

watchOS 5 beta 1 returns

Apple has reposted the beta of watchOS 5 today for registered developers, after [pulling it last week] due to problems some developers were having updating to the latest version. The latest beta features a build number of 16R5283r and a release date of June 11, 2018, suggesting that Apple has updated the code rather than simply placing the original beta back online.

Apple releases Carpool Karaoke trailer featuring ‘Stars of Tag’

Apple will be release a special episode of its Carpool Karaoke series this week featuring Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms and Jon Hamm, the stars of the upcoming comedy film TAG, as part of a promotion for the film. A one-minute trailer posted to Apple’s YouTube provides some highlights for this coming Friday’s episode, showing the trio singing parts of classic rock songs like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Bon Jovi’s You Give Love a Bad Name. While CBS and Apple renewed Carpool Karaoke for a second season earlier this year, there haven’t yet been any announcements as to when the new season is coming, and this episode appears to be a special, rather than the premiere of season two. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple will be adding App Prototyping to ‘Today at Apple’ sessions

Apple has announced plans to expand its “Today at Apple” courses with a new session on app prototyping, targeted at would-be developers who want to get into making apps but aren’t quite sure where to get started. The new initiative was announced in a Tweet by Apple retail VP Angela Ahrendts, who added that it’s based on a popular WWDC talk, and are expected to begin at Apple retail locations later this month.

watchOS 5 will allow Apple Maps alerts to be customized

In addition to all of the watchOS 5 features announced last week, another small but useful enhancement has been found in the beta by 9to5Mac that will allow users to gain better control over which navigation notifications they receive on their wrist. Apple Maps has long provided a boon to Apple Watch users in the form of haptic feedback for walking and driving directions, especially now that Google has abandon its watchOS Google Maps app, which never provided the same level of notifications on the wearable device anyway. In watchOS 5, however, users will now have the benefit of turning off any specific notifications that they don’t want to receive while navigating. Turn alerts can be turned off for “Driving,” “Driving with CarPlay,” and “Walking” and another switch provides the ability to turn off the display of transit directions from appearing on the watch.

Apple Watch may be moving to solid state buttons with haptic feedback

Apple is working on touch-sensitive side buttons for the Apple Watch, according to a new report by Fast Company. Citing “a source with direct knowledge of Apple’s plans,” the report says that Apple will stick with the same button configuration that is found on current Apple Watch models, but instead of using mechanical buttons, the controls will be solid-state, providing haptic feedback similar to the home button that was introduced with the iPhone 7, although the report notes that the Digital Crown will still actually rotate. The new button design could be coming to the Apple Watch as early as this fall, but if not they will appear in the 2019 models. The design change will allow the watch to remain more easily waterproof as well as free up internal space for a larger battery.

Apple Music adds new ‘Coming Soon’ section with pre-release albums

Apple appears to be rolling out a new “Coming Soon” section for Apple Music on iOS and in iTunes on macOS. Discovered by MacRumors, the section features pre-release albums that can be “pre-added” by Apple Music users to be added to their library automatically once the album becomes available for streaming on Apple Music. The concept is similar to pre-orders that have been available on the iTunes Store for years, except of course that users don’t have to pay to “pre-add” an album, since it will form part of their Apple Music subscription plan. The new Coming Soon section can be found in the Browse tab at the bottom of the “New Music” section. Tapping on an individual album will also display its expected release date. While the list of coming soon albums is fairly sparse right now, Apple does appear to be in the process of adding more content.

Apple acquires rights to develop novel ‘Shantaram’ into TV drama series

Apple has another drama series in the pipeline based on Gregory David Robert’s novel “Shantaram,” Variety reports. In what was described as a “competitive situation,” Apple has acquired the rights to the 2003 novel which tells the story of a man on the run from an Australian prison who finds a new life in the underworld of Bombay. Apple is not the first to attempt to develop “Shantaram” into a film, with Johnny Depp having previously acquired the rights to the book and Warner Bros. developing it most recently. The series will be produced by Anonymous Content and Paramount Television, which won the rights to the book after a bidding war in January, and also hold the rights to the sequel novel “The Mountain Shadow.” The series will be written and executive produced by Eric Warren Singer, known for “American Hustle,” “The International,” and “Only the Brave,”along with David Manson, Andrea Barron, Steve Golin, Nicole Clemens also serving as executive producers.

Developers remain concerned about App Store ‘free trials’ policies

Apple’s revisions earlier this week to its App Store Review Guidelines to explicitly allow free trials may not be sufficient to appease calls by developers for a proper free trial system. In a blog post titled Ersatz Free Trials (via Daring Fireball), Red Sweater’s Daniel Jalkut, best known for MarsEdit, outlines a number of valid reasons why Apple’s solution falls far short of what many developers have been hoping for almost since the advent of the App Store ten years ago. As Jalkut notes, Apple’s revisions aren’t even offering anything specifically new, but are more of a codification of a practice that was started by The Omni Group back in 2016 and has been used by several other developers since — that of basically giving away a free version of an app and unlocking the “paid” functionality via in-app purchases. The change to the App Store Review Guidelines offers some comfort that Apple isn’t going to pull the plug on these practices, but still doesn’t address the real issue with the lack of “proper” free trials.

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