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Report: Apple web TV service with ‘about 25 channels’ coming this fall

Apple plans to start offering an online TV service with about 25 channels this fall, The Wall Street Journal reports. The slimmed-down TV bundle, anchored by networks ABC, CBS and Fox and featuring popular cable channels like ESPN and FX, would be available on all devices powered by Apple’s iOS operating system, including iPhones and iPads, as well as Apple TV set-top boxes. People familiar with the talks said NBC and its family of cable networks aren’t part of the discussions after a deal between NBC parent company Comcast and Apple couldn’t be made. Some media executives estimate the service will cost between $30 to $40 a month, deeply undercutting the average $90 that cable companies charge — albeit with fewer channels. Roadblocks in the talks could stall plans to announce the service in June and launch it in September, but Apple’s deal to be HBO Now’s exclusive launch partner appears to have given Apple momentum to enter the TV market.

Report: Apple expanding iPhone trade-in program to include non-Apple smartphones

Apple plans to expand its iPhone trade-in program to include Android devices and other non-Apple smartphones, 9to5Mac reports. Much like the iPhone Reuse + Recycle Program introduced about a year and a half ago, customers will receive gift cards that can be used toward the purchase of new iPhones in exchange for their older smartphones, with the value of the trade-in assessed by Apple Store employees based on the cosmetic and functional condition of the device. The new program is expected to begin in the next few weeks, and Apple is expected to begin training employees later this week.

Report: Appointments not necessary to try Apple Watch in stores

Users looking to try on the Apple Watch in stores won’t absolutely need to make an appointment to do so, 9to5Mac reports. Apple’s latest memo preps employees to accommodate walk-in customers looking to try on an Apple Watch in its retail stores, calling appointments “recommended, but not necessary.” Whether you make an appointment or walk in and wait, the Apple Watch will be available for in-store previews starting April 10. Customers who like what they see will be able to place orders on the spot for pickup on April 24, when the Apple Watch officially launches.

Apple Watch shop pops up in Tokyo department store

An Apple Watch shop is popping up in a Tokyo Isetan department store as Apple positions to sell its watch beside some of world’s most respected — and expensive — watch makers. Photos of an enclosed construction space and additions to the mall’s maps show a permanent Apple Watch store going in right next to luxury jeweler Cartier, Macotakara reports. Although Apple has set up a process for handling watch sales out of existing Apple stores, the new storefront makes it likely at least some Edition sales will be conducted in high-end boutiques. So far no new construction has been spotted inside U.S. luxury retailers, but a source told Reuters that Nordstrom is engaged in discussions with Apple to carry the watch. Macy’s, Saks 5th Avenue, Bloomingdales and Barney’s said they had no immediate plans to carry the watch.

Microsoft to bring Cortana to iOS

Microsoft plans to bring Cortana, its Windows phone personal assistant technology, to both Apple and Android devices, Reuters reports. The company is reported to be developing an advanced version of its Siri competitor based on an artificial intelligence project it has dubbed “Einstein.”  Microsoft’s new CEO, Satya Nadella, has been more aggressively opening up the company’s software to non-Windows platforms, eschewing Microsoft’s traditional approach of forcing customers into using its Windows operating system. Cortana debuted on Windows phones last year, and will be coming to the desktop with Windows 10 later this year. According to people familiar with the project, Microsoft also plans to release a standalone iOS app version of the technology. New technology in Cortana to be rolled out this fall is expected to incorporate more advanced features, such as the ability to read and understand e-mail and more accurately anticipate user needs, rather than simply responding to requests as Siri does.

Apple releases iOS 8.3 beta 3 to developers (Update: iOS 8.3 Public Beta also released)

Apple has released its third beta of iOS 8.3 to registered developers, following the public release earlier this week of iOS 8.2 to support the upcoming Apple Watch. This latest beta features a build number of 12F5047f and details few changes in the release notes from the prior beta, with minor issues related to CarPlay, WatchKit, and LTE Voice. As expected, this beta also adds the Apple Watch app and related settings that were introduced earlier this week in iOS 8.2. This update is also accompanied by a new beta of the Apple TV Software, although it is unclear what has changed in that particular version as Apple TV betas are generally not accompanied by release notes.

Despite reports that Apple would release a public beta of iOS 8.3 around this time, there has been no indication from Apple of a public beta program starting as of yet — as with previous iOS betas, iOS 8.3 beta 3 remains available to registered developers only.

Update: The iOS Public Beta program is now available at Apple’s Beta Software Program site. Some of the information in the FAQ appears to have been updated to include instructions for backing up and installing on iOS devices, but the ability to actually register for, download, and install the beta version does not yet seem to be available for all users.

Apple drops Jawbone Up, Nike FuelBand from retail stores

Apple has removed Jawbone and Nike fitness bands from its retail stores, Re/code reports. The report notes that major stores in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles and New York are no longer carrying devices such as the Jawbone Up and Nike+ FuelBand, activity tracking wristbands that notably duplicate functionality found in Apple’s upcoming Watch. The move follows Apple’s removal of Fitbit products last fall, allegedly due to issues with that company holding out on HealthKit integration, and a number of other fitness trackers have been phased out of Apple Retail in a gradual revamp. With the Apple Watch being touted as a personal fitness trainer, it seems likely that Apple is looking to remove competing products from its stores to both make room for and promote its new premium wearable device.

Notably, however, Nike seems to have been making a departure from the hardware business, particularly following the loss of some its engineering talent to Apple. The company has been focusing instead on software such as its Nike+ Fuel iOS app, which is now being more heavily promoted than FuelBand, even on the company’s own site. Jawbone’s products have not completely been expunged from Apple Stores either, with the Move clip-on pedometer still being sold; the change in retail strategy only appears to directly impact wristband devices, supporting the notion that Apple is specifically concerned about products that will compete with the Apple Watch.

Twelve South announces HiRise stand for Apple Watch

Twelve South has announced an Apple Watch version of its popular HiRise stand — HiRise for Apple Watch ($50). The metal stand is designed to display the watch at an elevated angle, allowing the user to interact with the watch face while the device charges. HiRise works with the Apple Watch’s magnetic charging cable, which is inserted into the stand and routed out the back. The new stand features soft silicone pads and a leather landing pad in back to protect the watch, band and metal clasps. Available in silver and black, HiRise for Apple Watch will ship in May. Twelve South’s HiRise Deluxe stand was released for iPhone and iPad late last year.

Apple Store effect wins company lower mall rents

Apple is using the high traffic its retail stores generate to pay lower rent than other mall stores, The Wall Street Journal reports. An Apple Store’s ability to lift overall mall sales single-handedly — by as much as 10 percent, according to real-estate research firm Green Street Advisors — lets the company negotiate drastically lower rent and leaves other stores to foot the bill, even if they don’t benefit from Apple’s added traffic. In the past, department stores paid little to no rent since they served as main draws for the traffic upon which smaller stores depend. Apple has elevated itself close to that level, bargaining to have its rent based on no more than 2 percent of its sales per square foot, compared to a typical store that pays as much as 15 percent. “As department stores close, Apple is replacing them as the main driver of traffic to the mall,” said Raymond Cirz, chairman of Integra Realty Resources, a real-estate valuation and consulting firm.

Apple wants battery maker lawsuit thrown out

Apple has asked a Massachusetts judge to dismiss a lawsuit by electric battery maker A123 claiming Apple poached that company’s employees, according to Reuters. Last week Apple asked for an extension in the case, saying the companies were exploring a settlement, but a document filed Tuesday has Apple asserting that A123 hasn’t provided enough evidence to justify legal action. “Apple hiring five A123 employees, without more, does not indicate improper means or motive to support a claim for tortious interference or ‘raiding,’” Apple said in the filing.

Apple reportedly bringing Force Touch to next iPhone; pink color option?

Apple is planning to put Force Touch technology — which will be included in the Apple Watch and new MacBook — into the next generation of iPhone, according to The Wall Street Journal. The feature allows improved touch sensors to distinguish between a light tap and a deeper press, letting users perform different functions by applying different levels of pressure. Sources say the Force Touch versions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be released later this year. The screen sizes for both devices will stay the same, but Apple is also reportedly testing a new pink color option to go alongside the current silver, gold and space gray models.

Apple donating $50 million to encourage diversity in tech

Apple has pledged more than $50 million in donations to help encourage more employment diversity in technology fields, Fortune reports. In an exclusive interview with the publication, Apple’s HR chief Denise Young Smith revealed that the company is working with several non-profit organizations on a “multi-year, multi-million-dollar effort to increase the pipeline of women, minorities, and veterans in the technology industry.”

Young Smith, who came from a decade recruiting for Apple Retail and took over as head of Apple’s human resources division about a year ago, notes that the company “wanted to create opportunities for minority candidates to get their first job at Apple” and that the company believes that it needs to be diverse and inclusive in order to innovate. The HR executive goes on to note that Apple’s definition of diversity goes beyond race and gender, and that the company wants its employee base to “also reflect different lifestyles and sexual orientations.” However, its diversity issues for now remain mostly focused on women and minorities. Through the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, Apple’s initiatives will help build a database of computer science majors at historically black colleges and universities as well as training faculty and students and offering scholarships. The company also plans to create a paid internship program for “particularly promising students.” Apple is also working with the National Center for Women and Information Technology (NCWIT) to help “create a broader pipeline of female technology workers” by doubling the number of four-year degree recipients through internships, scholarships, and the company also plans to reach 10,000 middle school girls over the next several years.

Apple Watch: storage limits outlined, replaceable battery

All Apple Watch models have 8 GB of storage, but there are limits on how that storage can be used, 9to5Mac reports. A maximum of 2 GB can be allocated to music, and only 75 MB can be used for photos on the Photos app, as confirmed by Apple. That translates to roughly 200 songs and 100 photos that can be accessed even when the watch is away from an iPhone. The rest of the space will likely be reserved for the system’s OS, apps, and other internal data.

In other Apple Watch news, TechCrunch reports that Apple has confirmed the watch’s battery will be replaceable. Details on how much it will cost for Apple to replace the battery — and what the replacement process will entail — are still unclear.

Apple has also confirmed (way down in the fine print on the Apple Watch info pages) that the watch is “splash and water resistant but not waterproof.” So you can work out, walk in the rain and wash your hands, but no scuba diving.

Apple struggling to drop price of upcoming streaming music service

Apple has backed down from an effort to lower the subscription price of its upcoming music service, Billboard reports. It appears Apple will have no choice but to stick with the standard $10/month price used by other similar services, with the report noting Apple would have to absorb any losses from setting a lower price. The company was aiming for an $8/month subscription price, and an earlier report even claimed Apple had discussed a $5/month price with record labels.

Apple is still negotiating with labels and artists, and very little is known about what the final version of the service will look like, though it’s “widely believed” Apple will replace the Beats Music name with its iTunes brand. While Apple is still reportedly pursuing exclusive releases for its service, industry sources are skeptical that the company will be able to outmaneuver competitors for such exclusives. “Apple is one of the biggest companies in the world. If they want exclusive content, they’re going to have to get out the checkbook,” one source told Billboard.

Report: CIA researchers trying to break iPhone, iPad security

Researchers with ties to the CIA have been working for years to crack the security on iPhones and iPads, The Intercept reports. The researchers presented their latest achievements at the “Jamboree,” a secret annual gathering where attendees swap strategies for breaking into commercial and household electronics. Hackers discussed attempts to crack the security keys used to encrypt data on Apple devices, as well as efforts to modify the OS X updater and Apple’s proprietary software development tool, Xcode, to insert malicious code onto Apple devices. If successful, these breaches would allow hackers to intercept messages, steal passwords and even possibly “force all iOS applications to send embedded data to a listening post.”

Documents from 2010 to 2012 given to The Intercept by Edward Snowden note that researchers were “particularly intent” on extracting encryption keys for Apple products, but “do not address how successful the targeting of Apple’s encryption mechanisms have been, nor do they provide any detail about the specific use of such exploits by U.S. intelligence.” Neither the CIA nor Apple commented on the story, but Apple CEO Tim Cook has long touted privacy as a core value and has previously criticized the actions of U.S. intelligence agencies and law enforcement on such matters.

Apple increases iPhone prices in Canada

Apple has increased the price of unlocked iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus units in Canada by approximately 12 to 14 percent, likely owing to persistent differences in currency exchange rates between the two countries. The price of the basic 16GB iPhone 6 has increased by $90 CAD, from $749 CAD to $839 CAD, while at the other end of the spectrum, the 128GB iPhone 6 Plus gets a price increase of $150 CAD, going from $1,079 CAD up to $1,229 CAD. With the gap between the U.S. and Canadian dollar having increased dramatically over the past four months, the previous pricing was significantly below the exchange rate, however these new prices now make Canadian unlocked iPhone models slightly more expensive than their U.S. counterparts, even after exchange rates have been factored in. This move follows a similar 20 percent price increase that hit the Canadian App Store this past January. [via iPhone in Canada]

Apple publishes official Watch battery life estimates; Power Reserve mode to last 72 hours

Apple has published official specs on the expected battery life for the Apple Watch, noting that the wearable device is expected to provide “all-day battery life” of 18 hours based on a usage profile of 90 time checks, 90 notifications, 45 minutes of app use, and a 30-minute workout with Bluetooth music playback, although the article is careful to note that “actual results will vary” as “battery life varies by use, configuration, and many other factors.” Additional testing results estimate 3 hours of talk time, 6.5 hours of audio playback, 7 hours of workout time, and 48 hours of basic use involving four time checks per hour.

The document also describes the Apple Watch Power Reserve mode, which will provide up to 72 hours of time-check-only use — again based on 4 four-second time checks per hour. Charging time is also estimated at 1.5 hours to reach 80 percent of a full charge, and 2.5 hours to reach a full charge. Notably, Apple notes the performance claims are based on tests done using the smaller 38mm Apple Watch, stating that “a 42mm Apple Watch typically experiences longer battery life.”

WaterField Designs releases new Apple Watch accessories

On the heels of Apple’s official Apple Watch release announcement, new Apple Watch accessories have started to appear. WaterField Designs has debuted its leather Time Travel Apple Watch Case and Apple Watch Pad, designed to both protect and organize the Apple Watch and other related accessories such as bands. Available exclusively from the WaterField Designs online store, the Apple Watch Case ($49-$59) stores extra watch bands, the Apple Watch charger, Bluetooth ear buds, and other accessories in padded interior pockets and a choice of a leather or ballistic nylon exterior, while the WatchPad ($17) is designed to provide an elegant and protective surface upon which to place the Apple Watch while charging.

Apple reveals more Apple Watch apps on website

Apple has dedicated a new section of its site to Apple Watch apps. The site shows off a number of apps that were demonstrated at today’s event — such as American Airlines and SPG — while also introducing a slew of other Apple Watch apps. We figured out many of these apps last October in our Early Guide to Apple Watch Apps, but some other apps now featured on Apple’s site include Babbel, Expedia, PlayKids, Procreate Pocket, and Redfin, among many others. Also included on the site are Apple Watch games, like Rules! and BoxPop.

Apple Watch launches April 24; pre-orders on April 10th, prices starting at $349

As expected, Apple has provided an official launch date and pricing for the new Apple Watch at today’s “Spring Forward” event. The Apple Watch will launch on April 24 in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. Apple will begin accepting Apple Watch pre-orders on April 10th, and demonstrations and previews of the device will be available in Apple Retail stores on the same date.

The Apple Watch Sport model, which includes an aluminum casing, will retail for $349 for the 38mm model and $399 for the 42mm model. The standard stainless steel model will be available in a traditional or slate black finish and will retail from from $549 to $1,099 in the same 38mm and 42mm sizes, with specific prices depending on watch band selection. The solid gold Edition Apple Watch will be available in limited quantities, starting at $10,000 at “select retail stores” — presumably those which have been equipped with vaults.

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