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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.

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Apple testifies before Canadian Parliamentary Committee on iPhone slowdown issue

Representatives from Apple Canada appeared voluntarily before a Canadian Parliamentary Committee yesterday to respond to the recent scandal surrounding the slowing down of older iPhone models, the CBC reports. Answering questions from House of Commons’ standing committee on industry, science, and technology, Apple’s Canadian manager of legal and government affairs, Jacqueline Famulak, maintained that Apple did not intend for customers to think that it was being secretive regarding the reasons behind the slowing down of older iPhones. While Apple has continued to maintain that it made the decision to avoid unexpected shutdowns and thereby extend the life of older iPhone models, many consumers have accused Apple of a deliberate attempt to push customers to upgrade to newer iPhone models.

Apple publishes support article to help users identify fraudulent iTunes Store email messages

Apple has published a new support document to aid users in identifying legitimate emails from the App Store or iTunes Store as opposed to many of the “phishing” emails that have been making the rounds. In the article, Apple notes that genuine purchase receipts will always include the user’s current billing address, which as the company notes, “scammers are unlikely to have.” The article also adds that Apple will never require a customer to provide information via e-mail such as a Social Security Number, mother’s maiden name, full credit card number, or credit card verification code. It also suggests that if users are asked to update their account information, they do so directly in their iOS device’s Settings app or using iTunes on a Mac or PC. Apple also notes that users can report suspicious email messages by forwarding them to a special e-mail address: [email protected], and advises users to change their Apple ID password immediately if they think there’s any possibility they entered personal information on a suspicious website.

Proposed PowerPod Case aims to add wireless charging to existing AirPods

A new project on Kickstarter is gearing up to add wireless charging capabilities for current AirPods without the need to replace the AirPods case. The new PowerPod Case is a silicon case that goes over the standards AirPods case, not unlike many other cases we’ve already seen for AirPods, but in this case, PowerPod adds Qi charging capabilities that promise to allow the AirPods to be recharged from any standard Qi wireless charging pad. The PowerPod Case is expected to retail for $40, which will likely be less than the price of Apple’s new wireless charging AirPods case, and has the added environmental benefit of not requiring that you replace the existing AirPods case.

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.

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