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Apple TV adds NatGeo TV channel

Apple has added another new channel, NatGeo TV, to Apple TV today. As one might surmise, NatGeo TV is a National Geographic channel for Apple’s set-top box. The channel includes a number of clips and shows — some episodes require cable authentication, but at first glance, the channel appears to offer more free content than many other “cable channels” on Apple TV. Apple TV users will also notice the Apple Events channel has returned to Apple TV’s main menu, in advance of next Monday’s Apple WWDC keynote.

Insteon’s HomeKit-enabled Hub now available

With HomeKit accessories now on the way, the first to ship is Insteon’s Hub ($150). Hub and its accompanying app allow users to control all previous Insteon devices alongside new HomeKit-enabled devices from other manufacturers, eliminating the need to toss all of Insteon’s previous gear and start over to build a HomeKit-friendly home. The app allows for grouping devices for convenient control and scheduling to turn single devices or groups on and off. Making Hub HomeKit-compatible also integrates Siri into the process, allowing for voice command of devices and groups.

Other companies are now plugging HomeKit products ahead of upcoming availability, including the SmartPlug from iHome, which we first saw at CES in January. iHome’s SmartPlug will be available for pre-order June 15.

Apple’s subscription TV service won’t be announced at WWDC next week

Apple won’t be unveiling its subscription TV service next week at WWDC, Re/code reports. The company wanted to launch the new service in early fall to coincide with the new broadcast TV season, but necessary licensing deals aren’t yet finalized, according to several people with knowledge of the situation. Apple wants to provide customers in cities around the U.S. with local broadcast programming to set its service apart from those already available from Dish and Sony, but obtaining the rights to local shows and developing the technology to deliver them has proven time-consuming. CBS CEO Les Moonves has indicated his network will likely sign with Apple, but money is still a sticking point. Industry executives predict Apple’s TV service won’t launch until late this year or in 2016.

WSJ: New Apple music service to debut at WWDC

A new report from The Wall Street Journal has confirmed that Apple will indeed unveil its new Apple Music service at next week’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The report also confirms most of the details that have previously been reported about the new service, including that Apple will not only be unveiling a $10/month streaming music service to compete with Spotify, but also plans to update iTunes Radio with channels that are programmed and hosted by human DJs. While these details have been making the rounds for some time, it was previously unclear whether Apple would have the necessary licensing agreements in place in time for an early June unveiling of the service.

Updated Apple document claims Apple Watch won’t measure heart rate while in motion

Upgrading to Watch OS 1.0.1 decreases the frequency of heart rate readings taken by the Apple Watch when users are in motion, according to the device’s updated heart monitoring support document. “Apple Watch attempts to measure your heart rate every 10 minutes, but won’t record it when you’re in motion or your arm is moving,” according to the site. Watch OS 1.0 recorded a user’s heart rate every 10 minutes, regardless of whether a user’s arm was in motion. The change only applies to passive heart rate monitoring, which uses infrared sensors to determine heart rate. Users can still record more frequent heart rate measurements by starting a workout in the Workout app — which uses green LED lights and photo sensors to collect heart rate data — and can still get readings at any specific time using the Heart Rate sensor. [via 9to5Mac]

Report: Apple pursuing Drake for iTunes Radio guest DJ

Apple is rumored to be working on a $19 million deal to add rapper Drake as a guest DJ for iTunes Radio, according to the New York Post. DJ David Guetta and Pharrell Williams — who sported his Apple Watch last month on “The Voice” — are also in talks to get on board as faces of Apple’s upcoming entry into the streaming music business, according to music industry sources. Reliance on artist involvement and star power to promote the new service is consistent with previous rumors that “Apple Music” will provide fans with track samples, photos, videos, and concert updates on artist-curated social networking pages.

Typo to stop selling iPhone keyboard cases

Typo Products has agreed to stop selling its iPhone keyboard cases to settle its legal troubles with BlackBerry, The Globe and Mail reports. A federal judge awarded BlackBerry $860,600 in damages in February after Typo violated an injunction banning the company from selling its keyboard cases in the U.S. over a “likelihood” that the cases violated BlackBerry’s proprietary keyboard designs. The latest agreement prohibits Typo from selling smartphone keyboards on mobile devices with a screen smaller than 7.9 inches anywhere in the world, BlackBerry said in a news release. Other terms of the settlement weren’t disclosed. The Typo 2 – which snapped onto an iPhone and provided a physical keyboard to replace the touch-screen model — emerged last fall in answer to BlackBerry’s previous lawsuit, but BlackBerry successfully argued that the updated model still copied their backlighting features and “fret bars” for separating keys.

Apple issues workaround for Messages text string bug

Apple has issued a workaround for the recent Messages bug, which causes iPhones to reboot and Messages to repeatedly crash after a specific, strange string of unicode characters is received via text. In an official support document, Apple recommends using Siri to re-open the Messages app. Users are instructed to ask Siri to “read unread messages,” then to reply to the malicious message. Messages should then be able to open again, and users can delete the message, or the entire conversation. Apple notes that an upcoming software update will fix the issue.

Apple acquires Metaio, an augmented reality company

Apple has made yet another acquisition in the form of Metaio, a small augmented reality company, TechCrunch reports. Metaio launched in 2003 as a result from a project at Volkswagen, and the company has worked on a number of virtual reality and augmented reality projects, including the 2010 launch of Junaio, one of the very first augmented reality apps for the iOS platform. A legal document sourced by TechCrunch notes that shares in the company were transferred to Apple on May 21-22. Although Apple’s response was the usual standard boilerplate confirmation: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans,” there are several readily apparent possibilities as to what Apple may be planning to do with Metaio, particularly in light of recent news that Apple may be bringing augmented reality features to iOS 9.

Apple stuck with court-appointed antitrust monitor

Apple’s appeal to the courts to have its appointed antitrust monitor dismissed has been rejected, the The Wall Street Journal reports. Former Justice Department inspector general Michael Bromwich had been appointed to assess and oversee Apple’s antitrust compliance policies after the company was found liable in conspiring to raise e-book prices back in 2013. Since that time, Apple has been trying to have Bromwich dismissed, arguing that he has been exceeding the scope of his mandate, and that his fees were “exorbitant.” According to Bromwich, Apple has become uncooperative with the monitor in recent months, inappropriately limiting his access to necessary corporate records and denying requests for interviews with key personnel.

In a decision handed down earlier today, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Bromwich’s role was “appropriately constrained” and noted that Apple can continue raising objections in the lower court if it believes Bromwich has overstepped his bounds. Mr. Bromwich’s role was clarified by the court in early 2014, in a decision which made it clear that Apple was required to cooperate with the antitrust monitor, but that his role was limited to ensuring that “Apple has policies in place to prevent future antitrust violations and that senior executives and board members understand them.” One of the judges in today’s decision further noted that Apple failed to follow the court-mandated dispute resolution process in dealing with the monitor, instead choosing to sit “on its hands, allowing issues with the monitor to fester and the relationship to deteriorate, mostly without the district court’s knowledge.”

Apple to unveil rewards system for Apple Pay

Apple is preparing to unveil a new rewards program tied to Apple Pay, according a new report by The New York Times. According to sources familiar with Apple Pay, the service could be unveiled as early as next month — likely at WWDC — and would provide perks to consumers who make purchases through the Apple Pay service. No further details are available, and it’s unclear whether these rewards would be tied to specific bank and card issuers or specific retailers.

GM bringing CarPlay to 14 of its 2016 Chevy models

General Motors has announced planes to bring Apple’s CarPlay to 14 of its 2016 Chevy models, Re/code reports. At Code Conference 2016, GM CEO Mary Barra announced that the software will be offered across the “full range of consumer models” from the Corvette to the Spark, and she went on to note that GM also has plans to integrate CarPlay into its other brands “soon.” This integration will make GM the first major U.S. automaker to integrate CarPlay across a widespread lineup of mainstream cars.

Upcoming kit will allow developers to build native Apple Watch apps

Apple plans to debut a more advanced software development kit for the Apple Watch as early as next month, Re/code reports. At the Code Conference, Apple’s Chief Operations Officer Jeff Williams noted that the new SDK would allow apps like games to run directly on the watch as well as providing direct access to the Apple Watch’s built-in sensors. While the existing WatchKit SDK allows developers to build extensions for the Apple Watch into their iPhone apps, up until now third-party apps have not been able to function natively on the wearable device independently of the paired iPhone.

Apple may debut new ‘Proactive’ assistant with iOS 9

Apple is planning to expand Siri and Spotlight functionality in iOS 9 to provide a more effective personal assistant, 9to5Mac reports. Dubbed Proactive, the service is expected to be similar in concept to Google’s Google Now service that is available on Android devices and in Google’s iOS app, leveraging services such as Siri, Contacts, Calendar, Passbook, and third-party apps to provide relevant information to the user based on their data and device usage patterns. Integration with Apple Maps is also expected to allow the service to display points of interest, which will apparently be presented in a new augmented reality interface. The new service will reportedly be an evolution of the Spotlight search feature in iOS, and appears to be designed to be accessible from a panel to the left of the home screen — similar to where Spotlight was located prior to the iOS 7 design refresh two years ago.

Google Search will soon surface content from iOS apps

In the coming weeks, search results from the Google app and Chrome browser will begin including suggestions to use relevant apps available on iOS devices, according to a blog post from Google. In the above sample photograph, a search for a restaurant suggests using the OpenTable app to book a reservation. Clicking on the suggestion opens the app and guides it to the correct restaurant. The upgraded indexing of apps is starting with a “small group of test partners,” but who those partners are and what types of searches will suggest using their apps isn’t clear.

iOS bug allows peculiar string of characters in Messages to reboot iPhones

A bug in banner notifications through the Messages app allows a string of characters sent via iMessage or SMS to crash an iPhone, MacRumors reports. Receiving the string of symbols and Arabic characters causes an iPhone to crash and quickly reboot after the message pops up in a notification. After the reboot, Messages will crash immediately upon opening, unless it’s being opened to the conversation containing the offending message. Even then, trying to navigate to another conversation in Messages will crash the app. Reddit users found that replying to the original message solves the problem if the Messages app opens directly to the conversation containing the offending message. But if Messages opens to the conversation list view, the app will crash when opened until another message is received.

If you can’t get someone else to send you a message, sending yourself a message through Siri or through the Share sheet in another app is an option to resolve the issue. While the character strand is very specific and unlikely to be sent by accident, a quick search proves plenty of people have already started using the message maliciously. Until Apple rolls out a fix, turning off previews for Messages will help mitigate the immediate effects of receiving the message, and if someone is repeatedly sending the message to shut down your iPhone, blocking them is always an option.

iOS 9 Transit feature to launch in select cities

Following an earlier report that Apple Maps will be adding Transit in iOS 9, a follow-up report by 9to5Mac provides more details on Apple’s initial rollout plans, indicating that at launch the service will be limited to a handful of cities around the world. According to sources familiar with the project, Apple’s Transit service will be coming to only a half-dozen cities at first, with the list including San Francisco and New York in the U.S., Toronto, Canada, and London, Paris, and Berlin in Europe. Despite this short list, however, Apple is reportedly already making plans to expand the service further, and is considering Boston, Massachusetts and Tokyo, Japan as two of the next cities on its list.

Report: iOS 9 to feature Force Touch support, updated keyboard

Apple has designed iOS 9 to support Force Touch capability — rumored to be coming in next-generation iPhones — and is making improvements to the OS keyboard, according to a report from 9to5Mac. Apple’s updated iOS 9 will offer similar functionality to the Force Touch trackpads in new MacBooks, integrating the new technology to bring pressure-sensitive scrolling to media players. Force Touch will also modify the way users look up words, allow them to add new events in Calendar, and drop pins in the Maps app, according to sources who have used the new iPhone prototypes. Since the updated iOS 9 will also power upcoming iPads, there is speculation that Force Touch capabilities will end up in future iPads, as well. Apple is also weighing options for keyboard updates, including easier access to the QuickType keyboard, an improved Shift key that makes it easier to see when Shift or Caps Lock is active, and a “longer” design with additional editing controls in portrait mode. Updates to iMessage are also expected, including improved read receipt settings and preferences.

Microsoft confirms Cortana coming to iOS this year

Cortana — Microsoft’s answer to Siri — will be available to iPhone users through the App Store later this year, according to a blog post from Microsoft. Cortana will manage various functions across both an iPhone and Windows 10 PC — Microsoft notes that its “Cortana app can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone.” It will be able to answer questions, provide reminders, make notes, track flights and other routine tasks. There will be some limitations to the integration, however, as the iOS version of Cortana won’t be able to toggle settings or open apps on iOS, and isn’t integrated with an iPhone’s microphone to enable the hands-free access available on a Windows phone by saying “Hey Cortana.”

Microsoft hopes its new Phone Companion app built into Windows 10 will make PC desktops more appealing to iPhone users, allowing the phone to instantly upload photos, access music, work on Office documents and make notes that sync up with a user’s PC through the company’s OneDrive service.  A preview of Phone Companion will be available in a few weeks, but Cortana isn’t scheduled to land on iPhone until later this year.

Apple creates Chief Design Officer role for Jony Ive

Jony Ive is taking on the role of Chief Design Officer at Apple, as revealed in The Telegraph. Ive had been Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design for years prior, controlling both the industrial design for devices and the interfaces which run on the finished products since 2012. The promotion leaves Ive at the helm of Apple’s design process, but as of July 1 he will hand off day-to-day duties to new Vice President of Industrial Design Richard Howarth and new Vice President of User Interface Design Alan Dye. Howarth has worked on every version of the iPhone ever produced and Dye was integral in both the iOS 7 redesign and the new Watch OS interface for Apple Watch.

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