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Apple announces Swift Playgrounds for iPad, coming this fall

Closing off today’s WWDC keynote, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Swift Playgrounds, a new app that Apple is releasing this fall that aims to teach kids — and other users new to programming — how to code in Apple’s new Swift development language. Swift Playgrounds takes users through some very simple interactive coding tutorials before moving on to more advanced topics, in a fun and playful graphical interface, with projects that involve games and fun tasks to keep kids engaged and learning to code. Users will be able to proceed through the tutorials step-by-step, or jump to any tutorial directly from a table of contents, and more advanced freeform coding is also available within the app. Swift Playgrounds will be available this fall as a free download from the App Store when iOS 10 ships.

Apple’s iOS 10: the ‘mother of all iOS updates’

The big unveil during Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference today in San Francisco was iOS 10, the next generation of Apple’s mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Dubbing it the “biggest iOS release ever,” Apple’s Senior VP of Software Engineering, Craig Federighi, outlined ten major enhancements to a number of core iOS applications and APIs, beginning with a significantly redesigned user experience. iOS 10 redesigns the Lock Screen, Notification Center, and Control Center user interfaces, providing much richer notifications and enhanced support for 3D Touch for more comprehensive interaction with notifications. For example, users will be able to stay in Message conversions now from the Lock Screen, rather than simply dashing off a quick reply, more effectively deal with calendar invitations, and more, all via 3D Touch gestures.

Apple’s next tvOS update introduces Single Sign-On for cable authentication, Dark Mode + More

During this year’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco today, Eddy Cue, Apple’s SVP of Internet Software and Services, provided more details on its next-generation version of tvOS. While Cue conspicuously omitted any kind of version number, he highlighted key features in the next tvOS release, including a redesigned Apple Remote app for iOS that will provide the full capabilities of the Siri Remote, including voice control and accelerometer and gyroscope support for games, the ability to search movies and TV shows by topics, search YouTube using Siri, and expansion of the Live Tune-In feature added earlier this year to more channels. A new Single Sign On feature will improve the authentication process for TV network apps, allowing users to sign in once — presumably with their Apple ID — to authenticate to multiple apps directly on the Apple TV. Apple has also added a new “Dark Mode” to tvOS, which replaces the light background on the main menus with colors more reminiscent of prior Apple TV generations, support for up to four game controllers, and ReplayKit, HomeKit, and PhotoKit APIs to tvOS for developers.

Apple announces watchOS 3

During today’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco, Apple’s VP of Technology, Kevin Lynch took the wraps off watchOS 3, the next generation of the company’s operating system for its wearable device. Available today as a developer preview, and scheduled for public release in the fall, watchOS 3 will significantly enhance the speed at which favorite apps load and update information on the device. The update also features other notable UI changes such as the removal of Glances in favor of a new “Dock” that users can access from the side button to access favorite apps with live previews of each. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen in watchOS 3 will now display a Control Center instead of the prior Glances view, and watch faces can be switched by swiping left to right from the edges of the screen.

What to watch for during today’s WWDC Keynote

Expectations are high ahead of today’s WWDC keynote, with big improvements to Siri assumed to be a focal point of the event. Apple is expected to release a third-party Siri SDK for developers and is rumored to be putting out some kind of Siri-capable hardware device to rival Amazon’s Echo, though the latter isn’t expected to make an appearance today. “Sweeping changes” to Apple Music are also anticipated as part of the iOS 10 unveiling, with a more intuitive user interface and enhanced 3D Touch features among expected improvements.

BMW including CarPlay option in 2017 M3 and M4 models

On the heels of news that BMW is bringing CarPlay to its 2016 X5 M and X6 M models this summer, Bimmerpost News reports the feature will also be available in the 2017 M3 Sedan, M4 Convertible and M4 Coupe. The site points to the company’s 2017 pricing guide, which lists CarPlay as an available upgrade for each vehicle at a cost of $300. While the pricing options in the guide take effect in June, the CarPlay entry appears to indicate it won’t be available until August, in line with the previous report. [via 9to5Mac]

Apple to use Intel modem chips in next iPhone

Apple is reportedly planning to use chips from Intel as modem chips in some versions it next-generation iPhone model, Bloomberg reports. The Intel chips will replace the Qualcomm chips that have traditionally been used in prior iPhone models for GSM versions of the iPhone used on the U.S. AT&T network and some overseas markets, according to people familiar with the matter. Verizon iPhones will apparently continue to use Qualcomm chips for their CDMA network, as will iPhones sold in China.

Rumor: Apple to release ‘Deep Blue’ iPhone 7 color option?

A new report from Mac Otakara claims that the Apple will be releasing a “deep blue” color option for the next-generation “iPhone 7” expected to be released this fall, as an addition to the current silver, gold, and rose gold color options, although its source claims that is is “highly likely” that the space gray option will be discontinued in favor of the new deep blue color. The report also notes that the LCD glass surface of the new model will be the same as that of the current models.

Rumor: Apple to announce iMessage for Android at WWDC next week?

A new report suggests that Apple may announce plans to release an iMessage app for Android at next week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. According to “a source familiar with the company’s thinking” cited by MacDailyNews, Apple’s goal behind such a move would be to focus more on its service offerings beyond its own iOS and OS X platforms, specifically pointing to reports that Apple is looking to add person-to-person Apple Pay payments via its messaging platform. The move would not be unprecedented, considering the release of Apple Music for Android devices late last year, and would potentially improve the messaging user experience for iOS users who have close friends and family members using Android devices, allowing them to communicate using iMessage features with all of their contacts, including the ability to properly participate in group messaging conversations, share videos and photos in full resolutions, and avoid other carrier SMS restrictions. While the source noted that the timing of the actual announcement could change between now and Monday, they emphasized that the iMessage service would “definitely” be coming to Android at some point this year.

Report: Bluetooth 5 to be announced next week

The Bluetooth SIG appears to be on the verge of releasing the next generation of the Bluetooth specification, dubbed Bluetooth 5. In an email sent to SIG members, Executive Director Mark Powell revealed that the Core Specification Working Group is currently finalizing the next release, and that on June 16 the SIG will formally announce it, marketed simply as “Bluetooth 5.” Powell adds that the new branding drops version and point numbers in marketing in order to simply communications. Powell goes on to explain some of the technical benefits of Bluetooth 5, confirming previous reports that it will “quadruple the range and double the speed” for lower-energy Bluetooth communications, and will also deliver new functionality for location-relevant information and navigation designed to provide increased support and simpler deployment of beacons and Bluetooth location-based services around the world. Full details are expected to be revealed during a media event in London on June 16.

U.S. DOJ asks Supreme Court to overturn Apple over Samsung patent ruling

The U.S. Justice Department has asked that the Supreme Court overturn a smartphone patent litigation favoring Apple over Samsung, Reuters reports. The case stretches back to a 2012 jury verdict in which Samsung was ordered to pay Apple $930 million for multiple patent infringements by a wide range of Samsung devices. The amount was later reduced to $548 million by an appeals court, although the original patent infringement claims were upheld.

Schiller: Apple moving toward App Store subscription model

In an interview with The Verge, Apple worldwide marketing chief Phil Schiller revealed that the company is planning on announcing a major shift to its revenue-sharing model for app developers at next week’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference, which will put a greater emphasis on selling apps as subscriptions rather than one-time purchases. Schiller explained that Apple would retain the standard 70/30 revenue split for normal app purchases and initial subscriptions, but that developers who can maintain subscriptions with customers longer than a year will see a shift in the revenue-sharing model to an 85/15 split. As part of this change, the option for selling subscriptions will be opened up to all developers across all categories of apps — and Schiller says “that includes games, which is a huge category.”

Rumor: Apple making longterm plans to retire music downloads? (Update: Source doubles down)

Apple has been making plans to completely eliminate music downloads on the iTunes Store, according to a new report from Digital Music News. Sources “with close and active business relationships with Apple” have told Digital Music News that the company is actively considering a two-year termination timetable, and discussions within Apple have begun focusing on not if purchased music downloads should be retired for good, but rather when it’s going to happen. A range of shutdown timetables are apparently being considered by Apple, with executives suggesting that the company no longer expects to run the service indefinitely, although it may ride out iTunes music sales for a few more years until paid music downloads are eclipsed by “a streaming-dominated industry.”

While it’s unclear exactly why Apple would want to kill off a profitable business market — music industry analysts expect that iTunes music download revenue will still be around $600 million in 2019 — there may be concerns within Apple that the availability of digital download sales are limiting the success of the Apple Music streaming service by providing iTunes and iOS users with options, and that the overlap between Apple Music and the iTunes Store is creating product confusion, both in terms of purchasing products and in the combination of other overlapping services such as iCloud Music Library and iTunes Match. Further, despite the revenue from digital music sales, analysts suggest that music purchases in this form are in rapid decline, dropping by 15 to 30 percent year-over-year, suggesting that Apple may be planning a proactive exit strategy in a world that’s moving progressively more toward streaming services.

Update: A two-word refutation from Apple, as spokesman Tom Neumayr told Re/code that the report is simply “not true.”

Update 2, 6/8/16: Digital Music News is standing firm with its 2-3 year timeframe for Apple phasing out iTunes downloads, saying that sources with knowledge of the company’s plans are still adamant despite public denials. The site claims music downloads have entered a “free fall” this year and the decision to finally pull the plug on music download sales will depend on how sharply sales decline, how quickly streaming accelerates and the internal politics at Apple. It’s interesting that the site is doubling down despite Apple’s firm denial after the initial report was released — there’s a good possibility that factions inside Apple may be split on this issue.

UK drops encryption backdoor requirements from cybersecurity bill due to Apple pressure

The U.K. has passed a bill giving its spy agencies wide-reaching powers to hack computer systems and engage in bulk surveillance, but protests from Apple and other technology companies kept out requirements for weakened encryption, Bloomberg reports. Tim Cook expressed concerns that there would be “dire consequences” if the bill passed as it was first offered, with language mandating access points that subverted encryption to provide government access. The law allows for collecting metadata and using malware to infiltrate the computers and mobile phones of terror suspects, but makes it clear that companies aren’t responsible for building backdoors into their encryption. Under the law, companies will only be required to remove encryption at the government’s request if it’s “technically feasible and not unduly expensive.” How those provisions will be interpreted by British judges going forward is an open question.

Google’s new Motion Stills app lets iOS users make GIFs out of Live Photos

Google has announced Motion Stills, a new iOS app that allows users to turn Live Photos from an iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus into animated looping GIFs that can more easily be shared with other users. Motion Stills uses Google’s own image stabilization technology to freeze Live Photo backgrounds or create sweeping cinematic pans, and users can combine multiple Live Photos into a movie montage. Loop optimization features help to identify optimal start and end points and discard blurry frames entirely, helping to fix “pocket shots.” Motion Stills is available for free from the App Store, and all processing is notably handled on the user’s iOS device, so no Google account or Internet connection is required to use the app. Our initial experience with Motion Stills was quite positive — it’s fun and user-friendly, and certainly worth a free download for those who use Live Photos.

NBC Sports Radio now available in Music app

A live stream from NBC Sports Radio is now available for free through the iOS Music app or iTunes. The station joins NPR and BBC World Service as free listening options for Apple users and includes sports talk personalities like Mike Florio, Chris Mannix, Amani Toomer and Rodney Harrison. The update comes ahead of a rumored overhaul of Apple Music expected to be unveiled at WWDC. [via Apple Insider]

Instagram now allows sharing directly from Photos

The latest version of Instagram has a welcome addition for those wanting to share their pictures as they look at them in Photos. Now users can share their photos directly to Instagram without launching the app itself, by simply tapping the share button on the bottom left in Photos and adding Instagram to the options, using the “More” tab. After that, Instagram will appear in the listed options for sharing directly from the Photos app. The new feature lets users add a caption to photos and videos, but doesn’t offer any other editing features. To apply filters, users will still need to open the Instagram app and post their photos the standard way.

Apple hires doc who created HealthKit app

Apple has made another high-profile hire for its efforts to improve and expand HealthKit, Fast Company reports. Rajiv Kumar, who specializes in treating children with diabetes, drew attention in 2015 when he created a HealthKit-enabled diabetes monitoring system for kids. His former employer, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, confirmed Kumar will maintain a part-time appointment at the hospital, but CEO Christopher Dawes said, “We can’t compete with companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook when they really want one of our own.”

Apple could get 2-3 year exemption to open stores in India

India’s government may allow Apple to open retail stores in the country and provide a 2-3 year exemption from local sourcing requirements, The Times of India reports. Apple was expected to be completely exempted from laws requiring companies to source 30 percent of their products’ material locally because of the company’s status as a provider of “cutting-edge technology”, but the company’s application to bypass those rules was rejected by India’s finance minister two weeks ago. Sources now say that discussions have begun between the finance ministry and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion aimed at granting Apple the waiver, but only in the first few years of Apple’s retail store operations.

Apple hires architect of luxury car satellite navigation systems

Apple has hired Sinisa Durekovic, the software engineer behind the development of satellite navigation systems for several luxury carmakers, Bloomberg reports. Durekovic, who has more than 20 years of experience in developing satellite navigation software, was previously the principal architect and chief engineer for navigation at Harman International Industries, which develops in-car navigation systems for several high-end car manufacturers, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi. According to the report, Durekovic joined Apple in an “unspecified role” back in October, although it seems logical that his skills will be put to use in areas such as improving Apple Maps, CarPlay, or Apple’s much-rumored electric car project. Apple has recently made a stronger push toward Apple Maps development, opening an office in Hyperabad, India last month, where it will employ 4,000 staff focused on developing its mapping platform. Spokespersons for Apple and Harman had no comments to make on the hiring; Durekovic didn’t respond to a request for an interview.

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