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Apple facing growing calls to dump NRA TV after school shooting

Apple is one of many companies taking heat for allowing NRA TV to be broadcast on its platforms, The Huffington Post reports. A growing number of companies have severed ties with the gun lobbying group, but the NRA TV app is still available on the Apple TV App Store. Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, has created a website aimed at pressuring streaming platforms to ditch the channel, which she calls a media arm of the gun lobby that “propagates dangerous misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric that pits Americans against each other and furthers their agenda of guns anywhere, for anyone, no questions asked.” Apple hasn’t publicly commented on the demand, but in the past Apple has shown some willingness to engage in the gun debate, cracking down on gun violence imagery in the App Store in 2015 and replacing its pistol emoji with a watergun in the iOS 10 update.

Ring video doorbell acquired by Amazon, but still promises HomeKit support is coming

Amazon has acquired the maker of the Ring video doorbell, but in a tweet Ring claims HomeKit support is still on the way. First reported by GeekWire, Amazon is said to have spent more than $1 billion to acquire the smart doorbell company and is expected to maintain the company’s brand while integrating it with other Amazon-owned gadgets. Amazon had previously invested in Ring through its Alexa Fund, and the company has greatly expanded its home security options in the past year, offering the Cloud Cam home security camera and a smartlock bundle that lets users grant access to their home remotely for things like package delivery or people coming to provide services like house cleaning or dog walking. While the news of an Amazon acquisition made Apple users uneasy about the HomeKit update prospects, Ring said on Twitter, “HomeKit is definitely still happening! We’re testing HomeKit for the Ring Pro and the Floodlight Cam, and as soon as testing is completed, we’ll update everyone with a release date.”

Apple picks up thriller series from M. Night Shyamalan

Adding to its slate of upcoming TV programming, Apple has picked up a thriller series being developed by M. Night Shyamalan, Variety reports. Plot details are being kept secret, of course, but the series will be written by former “24” writer Tony Basgallop and feature 10 half-hour episodes, the first of which will be directed by Shyamalan. In addition to his film credits, Shyamalan previously produced the show “Wayward Pines” for Fox, which just ended after two seasons.

Third-party apps now let Apple Watch Series 3 track skiing, snowboarding workouts

Apple is promoting a series of third-party apps that allow users to track skiinbg and snowboparding workouts using the Apple Watch Series 3. Slopes, snoww, Squaw Alpine, Snocru, and Ski Tracks apps have all been updated with new tracking features that take advantage of custom workout APIs in watchOS 4.2 and the device’s built-in altimeter to track vertical descent, horizontal distance, average and maximum speeds, number of runs and calories burned, among other things. Strangely not all of that data is available in Apple’s own Activity or Workout apps, but some of the third-party apps have integrations that let their recorded workouts count toward Activity Rings or the calorie measurements in the Activity app. Slopes and snoww also allow users to start tracking workouts using voice commands, making it easier to use without taking off gloves to fumble around with touch commands.

Report: Apple plans to release ‘largest iPhone ever’ this fall

Apple is planning to release its “largest iPhone ever” alongside the successor to the iPhone X and a lower-cost model with some of the iPhone X’s features, Bloomberg reports. People familiar with the planning process said Apple is aiming to reach those customers who were interested in the iPhone X’s new features but balked at the $1,000 price tag, while still offering something new for those users who want the multitasking abilities and larger screen size of a “phablet.” “When you have a measurable upgrade in screen size, people go to update their phone in droves,” said Gene Munster, co-founder of Loup Ventures. “We saw that with the iPhone 6, and we think this is setting up to be a similar step up in growth.”

Apple granted patent for wireless charging Apple Watch case that can also charge bands

A patent for a wireless charging Apple Watch carrying case — among a stack of 26 Apple patents approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office today — hints at future development of so-called “smart bands,” Patently Apple reports. The case is similar to the proposed AirPods wireless charging case, able to securely hold and charge the Apple Watch itself, but the more interesting wording in the patent discusses circuitry that can “charge one or more bands” also stored in the case, provided those bands have electronic components. Apple has been rumored to be working on “smart bands” since 2015 that would use the hidden port data port on Apple Watch to add new functionality to the device, possibly monitoring things like blood oxygen levels, respiratory rate, and body temperature. No such bands have yet materialized, either from Apple or from a third party, but Apple mentioning the possibility in its own patent filings gives at least some support to the idea being considered, even if it never ships in a final form.

Apple launching its own medical clinics for employees

Apple has quietly rolled out a website that reveals the company will begin offering employees direct health care through its own in-house AC Wellness clinics starting this spring, CNBC reports. Joining the ranks of companies like Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan that have created similar ventures, Apple is working on staffing at least two clinics, with job postings for primary care doctors, exercise coaches, lab technicians and other more nebulous roles like “care navigator.” Apple was rumored to be interested in purchasing Crossover Health — the start-up that currently provides much of the Apple’s in-house clinic services — but has since scaled back its contracts with the company in favor of starting its own venture.

Report: Cellebrite has tools that can break into any device running iOS 11, including iPhone X

Cellebrite — the security firm that made headlines after rumors surfaced that it was responsible for breaking into the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone in 2016 — is now able to get into any iPhone running iOS 11, even the iPhone X, Forbes reports. The company hasn’t made any flashy public statements about the breakthrough, but its latest marketing materials claim the company can unlock and extract data from “Apple iOS devices and operating systems, including iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, iPad Pro and iPod touch, running iOS 5 to iOS 11.” Sources said Cellebrite is telling customers its engineers have devised ways to get around Apple’s most up-to-date security features, and it’s likely that the company’s tech was used to crack an iPhone X for the Department for Homeland Security last November. Apple hasn’t publicly responded to the news.

Number of class-action lawsuits over iPhone slowdowns swells to more than 60, to be consolidated

The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation will likely consolidate the more than 60 class-action lawsuits filed against Apple over iPhone slowdowns since the initial revelations surfaced last December, MacRumors reports. A court filing shows a hearing scheduled for March 29 to consider consolidation, likely in the Northern District of California near where Apple is headquartered and where around half of the original lawsuits have been filed. Apple also faces lawsuits in six other countries, including one filed last Friday with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Canada. The U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission are both also investigating whether Apple broke securities laws by not disclosing that it was intentionally slowing down older iPhones with aging batteries. Apple has publicly apologized for its lack of transparency and offered reduced-cost battery replacements to some affected users.

Apple to end iTunes Store access for first-gen Apple TVs, PCs running Windows XP and Vista in May

According to a new support document, Apple plans to cut off access to the iTunes Store for first generation Apple TVs and PCs running Windows XP and Vista on May 25. Apple is blaming the move on “security changes” that won’t be supported on the older devices. Older versions of iTunes already installed on XP and Vista machines will continue to function, but won’t be supported by Apple. To download new content from the iTunes Store (or to redownload previous purchases), PC users will need Windows 7 or later. It’s worth keeping in mind that Microsoft officially ended support for Windows Vista last spring, and Apple declared the first-generation Apple TV as “obsolete” over two years ago, so the move is not entirely surprising. For now, at least, second-generation Apple TV users appear to be unaffected, despite the fact that Apple also officially ended support for that model almost a year ago.

Apple migrates iCloud keys to Chinese data center as Europe also seeks more power over user data

Apple’s move to store iCloud keys for China’s users in data centers owned by state-controlled Guizhou-Cloud Big Data is raising red flags among human rights activists, Reuters reports. While Apple has always hosted iCloud keys in the United States — thus making it necessary to involve the U.S. justice system in any requests for user data — the company said it must comply with China’s new laws requiring the data to be stored locally if it wants to continue operating in the country. “While we advocated against iCloud being subject to these laws, we were ultimately unsuccessful,” Apple said in a statement. Jing Zhao, a human rights activist and Apple shareholder, pointed to earlier cases where Yahoo’s data was used to arrest and imprison two democracy advocates as a cautionary tale for what could happen if Apple’s user data is used to track down dissidents. French nonprofit advocacy group Reporters without Borders has already called on journalists in China to close their iCloud accounts in wake of Apple’s decision.

Shure hints at iOS 11.3 coming this week in since-deleted tweet

While Apple has only given a “Spring” release timeline for iOS 11.3, audio tool manufacturer Shure seems to have let the cat out of the bag that the update is coming this week, according to PiunikaWeb. In a weekend response to a customer question about problems with a specific condenser microphone, Shure’s Twitter account replied that “iOS 11.3, due out next week, resolves it.” The tweet has since been deleted, so time will tell is Shure was just speculating or actually has inside knowledge of Apple’s release timeline.

Leaked images allegedly show display and other components for ‘iPhone X Plus’

Two new leaked images posted on the MacX forums purport to show the screen size for the larger “iPhone X Plus” rumored to be coming later this year. The images of the displays and digitizer — which have since been deleted — were accompanied by text that claimed they were from a “production equipment trial run” at an LG facility in Vietnam. While the digitizer is larger than that of 2017’s iPhone X, the notch appears to be about the same size, although it’s difficult to tell without something to compare for scale.

Report: Apple planning to release high-end headphones this year

Hot on the heels of rumors that Apple will be updating its AirPods, well-respected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is telling investors to expect Apple to release a pair of high-end headphones later this year, 9to5Mac reports. Kuo expects the over-the-ear headphones to be an Apple product with an all-new design, not branded under the Apple-owned Beats label. The report doesn’t detail the specific features that would be included in the headphones, but they would likely feature improved sound quality, noise-canceling and battery life over AirPods given Apple’s ability to pluck the best of Beats technology for its own headphone line. Kuo also backed the rumored release of new AirPods, claiming they will come with an improved W1 chip and a case that features a redesigned hinge to facilitate wireless charging.

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AgileBits adds secure way to check for leaked passwords in 1Password

Only a day after well-known security researcher Troy Hunt launched his new new Pwned Passwords service, AgileBits has already built a proof of concept leveraging the service to help users determine if their passwords have been leaked onto the internet as part of a password breach. In a blog post, the company explains how they’ve integrated 1Password with Hunt’s new online database containing over 500 million passwords that have been collected from various breaches across the internet. While users can visit Pwned Passwords to check their passwords against the database manually, AgileBits has taken this a step further by adding a “Check Password” button in the web-based version of 1Password that can be unlocked with a specific keyboard sequence. This initial integration is strictly a proof of concept at this time, however AgileBits has stated that it plans to add this capability to the Watchtower password monitoring feature within the 1Password Mac and iOS apps to allow users to see if their passwords have been “pwned” right in the app.

Apple hires Narcos, Hannibal producer Carol Trussell as Head of Production

Apple has hired seasoned producer Carol Trussell to serve as Head of Production in its Worldwide Video Programming division, Deadline reports. Trussell, who is scheduled to start next month, come to Apple from Gaumont Television, where she has been Head of Production for the past four years, overseeing a number of well-known series’ such as “Narcos”, “Hannibal”, “Hemlock Grove” and “F is for Family.” Prior to joining Gaumont, Trussell served as a product on the first season of “Hannibal” and was previously also a producer on other series’ including “Roswell”, “True Blood”, “Unnatural History” and “What About Brian.”

Report: Apple on-track to begin selling AirPower in March

Japanese blog Mac Otakara has confirmed an earlier report from The Apple Post which reported that Apple’s new AirPower charging mat will be launching sometime next month in both Apple and Best Buy stores. The AirPower Qi charging mat, announced by Apple last fall, will provide the ability to charge the new iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus models, alongside an Apple Watch and specially-encased AirPods. Neither report offers a specific launch date nor any information on pricing.

iOS 11.3 beta 3 introduces Apple Music Videos improvements

With the release of the third beta of iOS 11.3 earlier this week, Apple now appears to be gradually rolling out its expanded music videos features within Apple Music. When Apple previewed iOS 11.3 last month, it noted that it would also be bringing improvements to the music video experience in Apple Music, making it “the home for music videos” and providing ad-free streaming and curated music video playlists. Although the new content doesn’t appear to be widely available within the iOS 11.3 Music app quite yet, opening the app in iOS 11.3 beta 3 now presents a welcome screen outlining the new features, which will presumably be gradually rolling out on the back-end of Apple Music as the public release date approaches.

Report: Apple planning upgraded AirPods for later this year

Apple is currently working on two significant upgrades to the AirPods, according to a new report from Bloomberg, suggesting that Apple intends to regularly release updates to the wireless headphones. According to people familiar with the matter, a new model of AirPods could be coming as early as later this year which would include an upgraded wireless chip and “Hey Siri” support for calling up Siri without the need to physically tap the headphones. Apple also already reportedly has a subsequent model in the design stages for 2019, which would add water resistance.

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