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First HomePod ads appear

Apple has posted four HomePod ads on its official YouTube channel, in the form of four 15-second music-focused clips that emphasize the HomePod primarily as a “breakthrough speaker.” The ads, titled Distortion, Bass, Equalizer, and Beat are each set to their own tracks, with most of the clip animating the word “HomePod” to the beat of the music, followed by a very brief glimpse of the speaker followed by an “Order Now” closing screen.

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Apple environmental report reveals HomePod uses surprisingly little power

Apple has published an environmental report for its new HomePod speaker, revealing that the unit “consumes less power than an average LED household light bulb during music playback,” coming in at 8.74 watts when connected to a standard 115-volt North American power outlet. Citing the use of power-efficient components and intelligent software, the report also notes that HomePod “outperforms the stringent requirements of the ENERGY STAR Program Requirements for Audio/Video Version 3.0, consuming 50 percent less than the allowable energy for low power mode,” or 1.71 watts, which the report explains is “entered automatically after 8 minutes of inactivity.” [via MacRumors]

Apple places straight-to-series order from ‘La La Land’ filmmaker Damien Chazelle

Apple is ordering a new drama series from acclaimed filmmaker Damien Chazelle, according to a new report from Variety. While specific details of the series haven’t been disclosed, Chazelle is expected to write and direct every episode in addition to serving as executive producer alongside Jordan Horowitz and Fred Berger. Chazelle has been behind such award-winning films as last year’s “La La Land” and 2014’s “Whiplash” and have both received multiple Academy Awards. Chazelle has also been tapped to executive product and direct several episodes of the upcoming Netflix original series “The Eddy,” but Variety notes that the new Apple series will be the first time Chazelle will have written and directed every single episode of a series.

HomePod preorders open in the US, UK, and Australia, includes removable 2m power cable

As expected, Apple’s new HomePod speaker is now on sale for preordering in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, with Feb. 9 shipping dates still available. Additional reports from 9to5Mac have also revealed that the HomePod includes a detachable color-matched two-metre power cable in the box, assuaging concerns from earlier reports that the speaker might use a fixed power cable that could be difficult to replace. HomePod is expected to be available for purchase from Apple retail stores and a wide variety of Apple authorized resellers on Feb. 9 in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, and is also expected to arrive in France and Germany sometime this spring.

Apple releases first watchOS 4.3 beta, iOS 11.3 + tvOS 11.3 public betas

Apple has followed up the release of the first iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 developer betas earlier this week with the first beta of watchOS 4.3. Featuring a build number of 15T5165e, the very sparse release notes list only basic background information and “No known issues” providing no insight into what’s actually changed in the newest version.

Report: Apple working on revamped Books app

Apple has a redesign for its iBooks app in the works, according to a new report by Bloomberg, as part of a plan to once again try to take on Amazon in the digital book market. People familiar with the project have revealed that the new app, which will be released in the coming months, is expected to include a simpler user interface and a redesigned digital bookstore that will borrow its cues from the iOS 11 App Store redesign. The app will include a new section called “Reading Now” along with a dedicated tab for audiobooks, according to the report.

HomePod to support FLAC, will disable personal notifications when owner isn’t home

Additional details continue to surface about Apple’s upcoming HomePod ahead of its launch date, including a new report from 9to5Mac revealing that the new wireless speaker will support the lossless FLAC audio format, providing additional evidence of Apple’s strong focus on the HomePod as a high-end speaker system rather than simply a home assistant. Lossless audio formats have long been preferred by the audiophile community, as they allow for unadulterated reproduction of high quality recordings, and although Apple’s ALAC format has been the company’s answer for this, the open nature of FLAC has made it a considerably more popular choice since it’s more widely supported. Apple added FLAC compatibility in iOS 11 last year, so although it wasn’t completely unexpected for the iOS-based HomePod to include FLAC support, it wasn’t entirely clear whether the codec would be supported over AirPlay.

Nintendo’s Miitomo closing down on May 9

Nintendo has announced (translated link) plans to shutter its first mobile game, Miitomo, later this year. First released almost two years ago, Miitomo represented the venerable game-maker’s first foray into the iOS ecosystem after years of holding out. Although the app was more of a social media experiment than a traditional game, the Nintendo name and marketing machine behind it resulted in a lot of hype, making its relatively short life somewhat surprising, although perhaps not entirely unexpected considering that Nintendo has moved on into considerably more popular traditional games for the iOS platform. In the announcement, Nintendo says that it will stop selling in-app currency as of today, with the service shutting down entirely on May 9. [via The Verge]

Tablo OTA DVR update adds advanced recording features

Nuvyyo has released a software update for its Tablo Over-The-Air DVR (iLounge rating: A-) bringing the more advanced and flexible scheduling and recording management tools that many users have been waiting for. The new features, which are rolling out as part of a firmware update to all Tablo DVR models, will allow users to adjust start and stop times for recordings, choose to keep only a specific number of episodes on a per-program basis, and choose which channel to record from when multiple channels are airing a given program. The new advanced recording features will be available to all customers with an active Tablo guide subscription once their devices have been updated to the latest firmware (2.2.18), which is being rolled out gradually over the next week, and can be accessed using most of Tablo’s apps, including the Apple TV and iOS apps, as well as the Safari-optimzied web app for Mac users. Full details can be found on the company’s blog.

Apple releases first iOS 11.3, tvOS 11.3 developer beta

Apple has released the first betas of iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 to registered developers, with the improvements previewed earlier today, specifically new Animoji and the promised improvements to battery health monitoring resulting from the recent iPhone slowdown controversy. iOS 11.3 also brings back the Messages in iCloud feature that was promised for the initial iOS 11 release, with the release notes indicating that it’s currently “for testing and evaluation purposes” and adds that the feature will be automatically enabled — in the beta at least — for users who already have two-factor authentication and iCloud Backup enabled. In addition, the new iOS version also adds a new security protocol that will require users to re-enter their device passcode to authorize a Lighting-connected USB accessory if it has not been connected to the device for more than a week.

EU hits Qualcomm with $1.2B fine over paying Apple to freeze out competitors

While the European Union still has its own unfinished business with Apple, the EU has sided with the company in its fight with Qualcomm, 9to5Mac reports. The EU fined Qualcomm $1.2 billion after ruling that the company’s rebate payments to Apple to freeze out other chip makers unfairly stifled competition. While the EU claims Apple’s deal with Qualcomm was anti-competitive, Apple wasn’t the subject of any further fines since the EU found Apple explored other options in the 5 years Qualcomm was using royalty payments to hold the company hostage. That royalty deal is a major component of Apple’s ongoing legal fight with Qualcomm, with Apple arguing that Qualcomm wants to capitalize on the work of others and Qualcomm arguing Apple wants to use technology they created without paying the company that developed it.

Preview of iOS 11.3 reveals new Animoji avatars, ARKit improvements, battery monitoring and more

Apple has released a preview of the new features in its iOS 11.3 software ahead of beta releases to developers and the public. The updated operating system’s Messages app will add new Animoji options — dragon, bear, lion and skull — as well as a Business Chat feature that lets users “have a conversation with a service representative, schedule an appointment or make purchases using Apple Pay” with select business partners, including Discover, Hilton, Lowe’s and Wells Fargo. Addressing the outrage over slowing down iPhones with older batteries, Apple has added a way to see the device’s battery health and a way to shut off the power management features that slowed down devices to preserve battery life.

Reports shed new light on Apple plans for 6.1” LCD iPhone

A new story from The China Times seems to back up well-connected KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s claims about Apple’s upcoming 6.1” LCD iPhone, expected to sport an edge-to-edge display like the iPhone X (including the camera notch) but only a single rear-facing camera. Where Apple offered one LED iPhone last year as the high-end model, this year’s three-iPhone lineup is expected to feature only one LCD model, aimed at users who don’t want to fork out for the more expensive flagship iPhones. The stripped down device is expected to come with an aluminum frame instead of stainless steel and only 3GB of RAM where the other two will have 4GB.

Apple releases iTunes 12.7.3 with HomePod support

Apple has released iTunes 12.7.3, a minor update that appears to be focused entirely on adding support for Apple’s new HomePod speaker, featuring a redesigned AirPlay menu, similar to that found in iOS 11.2.5, that allows Apple Music playback to be started and controlled remotely on not only the new HomePod, but also fourth-generation Apple TV devices running tvOS 11.2.5.

iTunes is now designed to work with HomePod. Use the improved AirPlay menu to easily choose HomePod and control what plays next with your Apple Music subscription.

When clicking on the AirPlay menu in iTunes 12.7.3, additional compatible playback destinations will be shown, and selecting an alternative target, such as an Apple TV, will allow you to control music playback on that device, with content selected from iTunes streamed directly from Apple Music in the cloud to the target device, rather than sent from your computer using AirPlay.

Apple releases iOS 11.2.5 with HomePod support, Siri news, enhanced audio control

Apple has released iOS 11.2.5, an update that brings support for the company’s new HomePod speakers along with Siri’s audio news feature and support for remote control of Apple Music playback. The new iOS update will be required to configure the HomePod when it’s released on Feb. 9, allowing users to automatically transfer their Apple ID, Apple Music, Siri, and Wi-Fi settings to the new speaker, likely similar in the way that an Apple TV can be automatically configured from an iPhone or other iOS device. The update also adds the ability to remotely control Apple Music playback on Apple TV and (presumably) HomePod speakers; selecting an audio destination from the Music app or Control Center widget will now display additional compatible playback destinations as separate panels, which can be used to start and control playback on that device directly from Apple Music, independently of whatever is playing on the iPhone itself.

Report: HomePod will work outside of U.S., U.K., and Australia — in English only

A report from MacRumors has confirmed that Apple’s new HomePod speaker will function in other countries outside of the U.S., U.K., and Australia, although users will be limited to using Siri in English only. Citing a leak by Guilherme Rambo from last August that outlined the HomePod set up procedures, MacRumors notes:

When users try to set up the HomePod outside of the those aforementioned countries, a dialogue box will appear that directs them to choose one of three English language options to proceed. We can confirm this setup process can be completed, and that the HomePod functions, in mostly any country from day one.

This suggests that users who are able to purchase a HomePod from the U.S., U.K., or Australia will be able to take it to another country like Canada, where it will work fine but be limited to English until Siri gains support for additional languages on the HomePod.

Tim Cook visits Canada, makes surprise drop-in at Toronto’s Eaton Centre Apple Store

Apple CEO Tim Cook made his first visit to Canada since becoming CEO, dropping in at the Apple Store at the Toronto Eaton Centre yesterday, The Globe and Mail reports. Cook’s unannounced visit to the Apple Store was a surprise for a group of grade 7 students who were attending a workshop to learn how to program robots using Swift, where Cook spoke about the importance of learning to code and Apple’s initiatives in education such as its “Everyone Can Code” program. Cook’s visit marks the first time an Apple CEO has come to Canada in almost 30 years; in addition to his appearance at the Apple Store, Cook also stopped by to see Shopify, noting their latest work in AR and VR technologies. [via iPhone in Canada]

Apple announces HomePod arriving Feb. 9, pre-orders open Friday

Apple has announced a release date for its HomePod speaker system, with the new device scheduled to arrive in stores on Feb. 9, and pre-orders opening this Friday in the U.S., U.K., and Australia. Originally announced last June at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference for a late 2017 release, Apple later acknowledged that the new speaker system would be delayed saying the company “need[ed] a little more time before it’s ready for our customers.”

Apple expands Everyone Can Code program to 70 more colleges in Europe

After rolling out its Everyone Can Code program to more than 20 international schools last November and Chicago high schools last December, Apple has allowed 70 colleges and universities across Europe to offer the program to students, according to a press release from the company. “Education institutions in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Ireland, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal will offer App Development with Swift to prepare their students for future careers in app development,” the release reads. “The full-year course was designed by Apple engineers and educators to teach coding and app design to students of all levels and backgrounds.” CEO Tim Cook echoed earlier comments he’s made about the importance of teaching coding in schools, saying, “Since launching Everyone Can Code two years ago, we’ve seen growing excitement for the initiative from schools around the world, who are increasingly incorporating the curriculum into their classrooms.”

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