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Barclays claims AirPods with improved noise canceling features coming next year

Speculation has been ramping up around when we’ll see the next generation of AirPods, with some reports claiming we’ll see a new model with an upgraded wireless chip and “Hey Siri” support for calling up Siri without the need to physically tap the headphones as early as this year. But 9to5Mac reports Barclays thinks Apple could wait until 2019 to reveal new AirPods with improved noise-canceling features. The analysts claim we’ll see “design changes and improvements” over current AirPods, but earbuds using physical analog methods will have a tough time competing with electronic active noise cancellation now common in over-the-ear headphones. The previous report from Bloomberg speculated that Apple could be adding waterproofing to the AirPods by 2019, so it’s possible that the noise reduction claim is a happy coincidence created by the better seal.

Studies verify smartband for the Apple Watch can detect high potassium, atrial fibrillation symptoms

A couple of studies have shown it’s possible to use AliveCor’s EKG-monitoring band for the Apple Watch to detect high potassium levels and atrial fibrillation symptoms, MacRumors reports. It’s not surprising that a Cleveland Clinic study found that the FDA-approved band can differentiate between atrial fibrillation and a normal heart rhythm since that’s a part of what it was designed to do, but the Mayo Clinic found that with a little help from AI the band could also alert users to dangerous potassium levels in their blood. Currently the only way to diagnose high potassium levels is a blood test, meaning that the condition (and accompanying causes) often do undetected.

Philips introducing first Hue outdoor lights in July

Philips will release its first outdoor additions to the Hue line in July, the company said today. New luminaries — starting at $30 — can be set to be activated by motion sensor or a timer, but only produce white light. The Philips Hue Lily spotlight ($280 for a pack of three) provides the company’s full 16 million-color range for highlighting features on the house or in the garden, while the Philips Hue Calla ($130 for base unit pack) provides the same color options in a path light, along with dimming features that allow for a gradual change as the night goes on.

iLounge Weekly coming Monday, sign up now

The latest edition of iLounge Weekly will once again be coming to subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge. It’s a summary of the previous week’s news, reviews, and feature articles, meant to get you caught up on recent events. It also often features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.

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HomePass gives you a place to store all of your HomeKit codes

A handy new app from developer Aaron Pearce aims to address an interesting problem that many advanced HomeKit users have probably run into — keeping track of all of the HomeKit pairing codes for a household full of home automation accessories. HomePass for HomeKit ($3) is a fairly simple app that efficiently addresses this issue, providing a single place to keep all of your device codes backed up so that they’re readily available should you ever need to re-pair a device, transfer it to a new home, or sell it or give it away. HomePass is capable of reading your existing HomeKit configuration to build your device list so that you can then simply tap on each device and punch in the codes, and you can also add additional accessories manually. Sadly, the app doesn’t provide any way to scan codes with your camera, so you’ll have to key them in yourself, although it does sync your database of codes to iCloud so that it’s backed up and available from multiple devices, and you can also export the data to a CSV file. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple releases 12th annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report

Apple has announced its annual Supplier Responsibility Progress Report, providing insight into the company’s efforts to improve working conditions at its supplier facilities and protect the environment. Highlights of the report include the training of three million supplier employees on worker rights in the past year, the launch of health programs specifically targeted at female employees with a goal of training one million more women by 2020, and the repayment of $1.9 million in excessive recruitment fees to 1,558 people affected by bonded labor. While not to be confused with Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Reports, the Supplier Responsibility report does also cover environmental initiatives within the supply chain, including the expansion of zero waste to landfill efforts to India, deployment of alternative green cleaners in final assembly facilities, and a 37 percent average wastewater reuse rate with freshwater savings of 5.1 billion gallons.

August begins offering free 24-hour video recording plan for Doorbell Cam

August has announced that it will begin offering a free basic tier to the video recording service for its August Doorbell Cam, allowing all users to access the past 24 hours of videos recorded by the camera without the need to pay a subscription fee. For users who want to store all their camera videos for longer, August’s paid subscription plan remains available for $5/month or $50/year, and stores 30 days of video history, however the free plan allows recorded videos to be downloaded and shared, so users can choose to save important videos indefinitely without any additional subscription fees.

New Indiegogo project aims to improve iPhone anti-theft protection

A new project on Indiegogo, Safeskin, is looking to address one of the main limitations with Find My iPhone with a case that locks onto an iPhone and prevents it from being turned off. While it’s not clear exactly how Safeskin works to keep an iPhone powered on, it appears that it connects to the iPhone Lighting port, suggesting an electronic solution rather than something that simply interferes with the physical controls. The package will also include an Eye proximity sensor that pairs with the case to alert you when your iPhone gets out of range. No additional details on the product are yet available, although users who are interested can sign up on the Indiegogo product page to be kept up to date on further developments.

Report: iPad Pro with Face ID could debut at WWDC

A new report from Rosenblatt analyst Jun Zhang in Barrons suggests that Apple’s rumoured Face ID enabled iPad Pro models may make their debut at this year’s Worldwide Developers’ Conference in June. Zhang expects that the new devices could offset some persisting weaknesses in iPhone X sales, and estimates that the new iPad Pro would be ready for mass production with a release date in late Q2 2018. Rumours of Face ID coming to the iPad Pro first appeared last October from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, suggesting that the inclusion of a TrueDepth camera would not only enable Face ID but would open up many more possibilities for developers. A WWDC release date doesn’t seem entirely out of the question in light of the fact that last year’s iPad Pro models were unveiled at the same time, although Apple has also more commonly unveiled major new iPad releases during its fall events in recent years. [via MacRumors]

Lower-priced HomePod may be coming later this year

New reports from Taiwan’s Economic Daily News and Japanese blog Mac Otakara are suggesting that Apple may have a more inexpensive HomePod model in the works for release later this year, MacRumors reports. While the report is unclear as to what would differentiate the lower-end model from the current HomePod, it seems to suggest that it would be a smaller version, perhaps intended to compete on price with Amazon and Google’s speakers, but whether or not it would sacrifice features or sound quality is unknown at this point.

Apple releases fourth watchOS 4.3 developer beta, new public betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3

Apple has released a fourth watchOS 4.3 beta along with new public betas for iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3, matching the fourth developer betas released earlier this week. Featuring a build number of 15T5199f,  the sparse release notes don’t suggest any significant changes since the prior beta. watchOS 4.3 is expected to bring iPhone music control back to the Apple Watch and allow Nightstand mode to work in portrait orientation. The latest beta also appears to resolve issues with weather information in Greater China and accuracy in the battery complication.

Apple Music for Android adds music video improvements

Apple has released an update for Apple Music for Android users, rolling in some of the improvements that will also be coming to the Apple Music app in iOS 11.3. In addition to “significantly improv[ing] stability” and reliability on more devices, the update lets users watch music videos in fullscreen or inside the Now Playing view, continue watching videos while browsing through the Apple Music app, listen to music videos in the background while using other apps, and add music videos to playlists for back-to-back playback.

Apple reverts updated Books app back to iBooks in fourth iOS 11.3 beta

Apple has rolled back the much-hyped change to its iBooks app in the fourth iOS 11.3 beta, seeming to indicate the update isn’t quite ready for a broader release. The app was renamed from iBooks to Books in the first iOS 11.3 developer beta and remained that way through the third beta release, but as of yesterday’s fourth betas of iOS and macOS it has reverted back to iBooks. Reports from January claimed the updated app will eventually include a simpler user interface, redesigned digital bookstore, a new section called “Reading Now,” and a dedicated tab for audiobooks. Some references to those features were unearthed in the early iOS 11.3 betas only to disappear in this most recent one. Several minor but noticeable problems cropped up in the beta 3 version of the Books app, including sorting issues with recently read books not appearing at the top, intermittent problems opening ePub books and PDFs that weren’t from the iBooks Store, and problems opening recent iBooks from the 3D Touch menu, so it’s possible we won’t see the final public release of the new Books app until iOS 12 this fall. The reverted iBooks app seems to be functioning normally again, but doesn’t include the new features.

Apple pulling the plug on ‘iTunes LPs’ format

In a letter to music industry representatives, Apple has quietly announced that it will be discontinuing its iTunes LPs, Metro reports. While LP means “long-playing” and usually refers to a full album as far as physical media are concerned, in Apple’s world the LP signifies a special music bundle that includes extras like liner notes, photos and videos. Apple won’t be accepting new submissions for iTunes LPs starting next month and the company plans to remove the existing bundles from the iTunes Store through the rest of 2018. While Apple said, “Customers who have previously purchased an album containing an iTunes LP will still be able to download the additional content using iTunes Match,” VentureBeat claims an attempt to download a previously purchased iTunes LP from the iTunes Store only yielded the album’s tracks without the accompanying content.

New video shows big benefits of battery replacement for older iPhones

While it’s already been shown that replacing the battery on an older iPhone speeds it up — and Apple has already admitted that they slowed the older devices on purpose when the batteries weakened — a new video is showing just how pronounced the benefits are. The video, posted by Bennett Sorbo, showed a slowed-down iPhone 6s completing a series of tasks in 5 minutes and 45 seconds, then showed the same device taking only 4 minutes and 33 seconds to finish them once the battery was replaced. The old battery left the 6s with a single-core Geekbench score of 1437 points and a multi-core score of 2485, where the device scored 2520 and 4412 respectively once the battery was swapped out. While users will soon be able to turn the throttling on and off at will, the video proves there are serious benefits to taking Apple up on its cheap battery replacement offer for eligible iPhones.

Mophie filing hints at first Qi-certified wireless charging battery case for iPhone X

While there are already battery cases on the market for the iPhone X, Mophie has filed an application with the Wireless Power Consortium to offer the first one that is Qi-certified, Mac Otakara reports. Today Mophie was granted the Qi certification for its Juice Pack Air for iPhone X, so an official announcement could be forthcoming any time. The filing claims the device will be able to extend call duration by up to 9 hours, but doesn’t include any word on then the case will become available. [via MacRumors]

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

Apple has released the fourth betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 to registered developers. While iOS 11.3 adds a few interesting new features, the fourth 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. 9to5Mac found that the new code adds support for Brazilian Portuguese to the TV app, hinting that that app could be released in Brazil soon. There’s also no sign of the return of AirPlay 2 — removed in iOS 11.3 beta 3 — and the release notes still make no mention of it, 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.

Report: Analyst predicts lower-cost MacBook Air coming in second quarter

Well-respected KGI analyst is telling investors to expect Apple to release a more affordable 13” MacBook Air some time in the first half of the year, MacRumors reports. Kuo said the new MacBook Air “with a lower price tag” will land in the second quarter, but how much lower the price will be than the current $999 price tag for the current 13” MacBook Air isn’t clear. While Apple released new offerings in the MacBook Pro line in 2016, the MacBook Air has only received a minor processor upgrade since 2014, and the MacBook line essentially displaced the Air with a slimmer design in 2015. Kuo doesn’t speak to what kinds of hardware improvements would be featured in the new MacBook Air, but there is plenty of room for improvement since the current model is underpowered in just about every area compared to Apple’s other MacBooks, including processors, graphics and displays.

Report: Development issues could hold up (or even scrap) Apple headphones

A new Bloomberg report backs an earlier KGI claim that Apple is developing a new pair of headphones under its own brand, but development issues might push back the product’s release. Delays due to design complications seem to be a theme with Apple’s recent push into high-end audio products, with both the company’s AirPods and HomePod pushed back from their initial targets after engineers had trouble tackling things like wireless audio synchronization. The HomePod even had an embarrassing issue arise after its launch despite missing it’s original release date, so it’s possible Apple is being particularly cautious this time around to get it right at launch. The new report didn’t specifically cite whether the problems are with the basic design or the audio components, but warned it’s still possible it could scrap the headphone project altogether despite initially targeting a launch as early as the end of this year. Apple already owns the successful Beats headphone brand, making it possible that a new entry into the crowded wireless headphone market would cannibalize the company’s own sales under that label.

iLounge Weekly arriving Monday, sign up now

The latest edition of iLounge Weekly will once again be coming to subscribers’ inboxes early next week. iLounge Weekly is our weekly newsletter covering all things iLounge. It’s a summary of the previous week’s news, reviews, and feature articles, meant to get you caught up on recent events. It also often features giveaways and accessory discount offers from various companies. There’s still plenty of time to sign up and receive this week’s edition — just use the simple form below to submit your email address, if you haven’t done so already.

IMPORTANT: Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Earthlink and others, make sure we don’t end up in your spam box. Please accept emails from Thank you.

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