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Report: Apple in bidding war with HBO for new J.J. Abrams show

Apple is currently in a bidding war with HBO for a new sci-fi drama from J.J. Abrams, Variety reports. The series is rumored to revolve around a world’s efforts to repel a “monstrous, oppressive force” and marks Abrams’ first return to writing for TV since “Fringe” in 2008. Apple seems to be very interested in the sci-fi genre to begin its original video content venture, opting to revive Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories” and order an original sci-fi show from “Outlander,” “Battlestar Galactica” show runner Ronald D. Moore.

BMW to charge $80 annual fee for CarPlay in its vehicles

While most automakers either offer CarPlay as a standard feature or charge a flat fee to include it, BMW is making a curious move to charge an $80-a-year subscription fee for the Apple feature, The Verge reports. Last year BMW added CarPlay as an option for a $300 one-time fee, but Don Smith, technology product manager for BMW North America, said the company will now offer the service free for the first year and then charge $80 each year after that to keep it active. “This allows the customer to switch devices,” Smith said. “A lot of people buy [CarPlay] and think it’s OK, but sometimes they stop using it or switch to Android.” While some may balk at having to pay every year to keep CarPlay active, the move is particularly geared toward those leasing cars, leaving those choosing a three-year lease paying less over the life of the agreement than if they opted for a $300 payment.

Apple opens Siri’s ‘Give me the news’ feature to US, UK, Australian users

Even though the HomePod has been delayed, Apple is rolling out Siri’s new “Give me the news” feature to iOS users in the US, UK and Australia, 9to5Mac reports. The update plays a daily news podcast when users ask Siri, “Give me the news,” with the default content coming from NPR in the US, the BBC in the UK and ABC in Australia. Users can switch the podcast by asking Siri to switch to CNN, Fox News or The Washington Post in the US, Sky news or LBC in the UK, or SBS and Seven Network in Australia. The feature hasn’t appeared in Canada yet.

Report: Manufacturing partner starts shipping HomePods to Apple

Manufacturing partner Inventec has begun shipping completed HomePod units to Apple, The Taipei Times reports. Sources said Inventec has sent 1 million of the devices to Apple, although one said, “revenue contribution from the product to Inventec is expected to be limited this quarter, as the initial shipment is not large.” The first million units is only a fraction of the 10–12 million expected to be built this year, with Inventec and Hon Hai splitting those orders. The HomePod was supposed to be released before Christmas, but Apple delayed it to a vague “early 2018” release, saying “we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers.” There’s no update on when the product will actually begin making its way to consumers.

App Store download revenue set to overtake amount made by entire movie industry this year

App Store downloads brought in $26.5 billion for developers in 2017, and Asymco’s Horace Dediu has unearthed some interesting stats about how that stacks up against other juggernauts of American business. If App Store downloads continue to increase at the same rate, the amount generated in 2018 will be more than the entire film industry combined, as well as more than the revenue taken in by the entire McDonald’s Corporation in 2016. In the coming year users will be spending about $100 million each day on apps, making the App Store segment of Apple’s business the equivalent of a Fortune 100 company in its own right. And these totals don’t take into account other apps offered from free by companies like Amazon and Uber that in turn are used by those companies to generate revenue. With Dediu estimating that “iOS enables about 50% to 60% of mobile economic activity,” he estimates that between economic activity and hardware sales combined, “the iOS economy cleared about $380 billion in revenues 2017” and is set to approach the $500 billion mark in the coming year.

Chinese consumer group joins others demanding information about iPhone slowdowns

A Chinese consumer group has joined the growing list of private citizens and government entities demanding information about why and how Apple decided to slow down older iPhones without informing users, Reuters reports. Chinese state news agency Xinhua said the Shanghai Consumer Council has demanded a reply from Apple by Friday about how the company plans to rectify consumer complaints that their old iPhones became sluggish after the iOS 10.2.1 update. Apple has already lowered the price of battery replacements for users with certain iPhones and promised software changes to let users monitor the health of their batteries, but the company is still facing multiple class-action lawsuits and demands from lawmakers to provide more information about the situation.

Apple makes deal to allow tipping to resume for Chinese users of WeChat app

Apple has reached a deal with Tencent that will soon allow the tipping feature to be turned back on in WeChat, The Wall Street Journal reports. Direct payments to content creators were disabled in WeChat and other apps last year when Apple informed the app makers that it considered the payments equivalent to in-app purchases — which means Apple would be entitled to 30 percent of the revenue being sent. The companies objected, arguing that Apple was looking to collect money for nothing since not even the app makers themselves were collecting anything from the direct payments sent from users to content creators.

Apple took meeting with AR component suppliers during CES

In another small move adding fuel to speculation about Apple’s augmented reality glasses project, the tech giant met with suppliers that produce the underlying technology to power the devices during CES, Bloomberg reports. Apple was among several larger tech companies that had discussions with suppliers, according to people familiar with the meetings. Apple is reportedly aiming to have the technology ready by 2019 ahead of a 2020 product release, but sources have admitted that launch timeline is “very aggressive” and subject to change.

India relaxes 30-percent local sourcing rules for Apple, clearing way for Apple Stores

India has relaxed the rules that have been keeping Apple from opening Apple Stores, clearing the way for the company to expand into the country, The New York Times reports. Indian law requires that companies opening retail locations source at least 30 perfect of the materials in the product’s construction from within India, which poses a big problem for Apple since the company sources materials and assembles its products mainly from China. The new rules allow single-brand retailers “to temporarily meet the 30 percent requirement by buying goods made in India and then selling them overseas.” That would allow Apple to buy Indian made accessories like iPhone cases and sell them outside the country to offset the sales it is making on its own products within the country. After five years those rules will expire and Apple will have to meet the full sourcing requirement, but by then it should be possible for Apple to rejigger its supply chain to comply. Apple began manufacturing the iPhone SE in India last year and has been allowed to sell them online, but had still been prevented from opening retail locations because the components were brought in from outside the country.

Apple mistakenly notifies US users of Chinese data center migration

Apple sent an email notification to several users outside of China mistakenly informing them their iCloud data was being moved to a Chinese company’s servers, TechCrunch reports. Apple had previously announced its move to migrate user data in China to government-run servers to comply with local laws, but some US users reported receiving an email telling them their data was being moved to the Chinese data centers as well. Apple sent a followup to users who received the email by mistake, assuring them that “only users with their Apple ID country set to China will have their iCloud data migrated to GCBD servers.” That wording is important, since setting their Apple ID location outside of China could prevent Chinese users from having their data on state-run servers.

Gracenote shows off app that integrates AM/FM radio with CarPlay

Gracenote has showcased a potential solution to remedy Apple’s lack of CarPlay support for local radio that also makes stations from around the US available, CNET reports. Known for creating tagging information for digital music, Gracenote has now created an app that combines local AM/FM broadcast stations alongside radio streaming options, all of which can be accessed from within CarPlay instead of leaving Apple’s user interface to manage the radio from the vehicle’s native interface. The app has an indexed list of radio stations from all over the US, sorted by genre and location for easy browsing, but the company doesn’t seem to have plans to make it available to consumers through the App Store. Instead, the company will be providing the tech to “partners,” which likely means automakers will be the ones that end up providing the solution to make radio available through CarPlay at some point.

Class-action lawsuit targets Apple, others over Intel processor security issues

A class-action lawsuit against Apple and Intel has been filed by a group of Israelis angry over recently revealed security vulnerabilities in Intel processors, Hamodia reports. While the lawsuit appears to focus on privacy concerns, the overblown language in the filing is more sensationalism than substance, at one point claiming, “Our worst nightmares have come to pass, and a giant tech bubble has burst. That this is an earthquake is an understatement. Since the announcement by the companies of the vulnerabilities of their products, we realize that we are living in a fantasy world and now realize that we do not even have a minimum of privacy.”

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Roland announces new app for creating split screen music videos

Venerable musical instrument maker Roland has released 4XCAMERA, a new video capture app for iOS devices. Although it’s a slight departure from the company’s usual offerings, 4XCAMERA is still targeted at musicians, with the goal of helping to create music videos that can combine up to four performances on a split screen. Users start by capturing a single video using the app, and can then use that initial video to record up to three more performances, adding new parts on each pass. Users can then apply one of 10 split-screen patterns and adjust volumes for each of the videos separately for the perfect sound mix before rendering a final video file that can be shared directly on YouTube or other social media sites.

Scosche unveils new BoomBottle, Rhythm24, and wireless charging solutions at CES 2018

Scosche has announced its 2018 product lineup, including an update to the company’s BoomBottle rugged portable speaker and Rhythm heart monitor and a new lineup of wireless charging and mounting solutions. BoomBottle MM is the company’s latest rugged waterproof speaker, building off the 2015 BoomBottle+, and features two six-watt speakers and two 40 millimeter passive radiators and is IP67 rated for dust and water protection. Additional new features include an auto-sensing indoor/outdoor equalizer and support for Scosche’s built-in MagicMOUNT technology so users can keep their iPhone magnetically secured to the speaker (although wireless charging is not included). A magnet on the bottom of the speaker allows it to be easily attached to a metal surface at virtually any angle, and it also includes a built-in bottle opener.

Zagg announces Rugged Book for iPad and iPad Pro

Zagg has released its latest iPad and iPad Pro keyboard case, the Rugged Book ($130), providing a protective case and keyboard combo designed for iPad road warriors. Joining the company’s Rugged Messenger released last summer, the new Rugged Book incorporates a wireless keyboard and detachable case that can be used in four different modes (book, keyboard, case, and video) along with an adjustable cradle hinge for multiple viewing angles and reinforced metal plating on the keyboard for a sturdy typing experience. The case also includes four layers of construction for drop protection of up to 6.6 feet, making it the most protective iPad case that Zagg has created up to this point. The keyboard uses a Bluetooth connection and provides backlighting that can be set to seven different colors, a rechargeable battery that promises up to two years of life between charges, and a magnetic sleep/wake function to automatically turn off the keyboard to preserve battery life. The Zagg Rugged Book is available for the fifth-generation iPad, 9.7-inch iPad Pro, iPad Air, and iPad Air 2.

Number of lawsuits against Apple grows as US, French officials inquire about iPhone throttling

US Senator John Thune has entered the fray around Apple’s admitted slowing down of older iPhones, sending the company a list of questions about how it came to the decision to throttle performance on its devices without informing users, The Wall Street Journal reports. As Senate Commerce Committee chairman, Thune is looking for information on “how Apple has tracked customer complaints of processing performance and if Apple has explored offering rebates to customers who paid full price for a battery replacement before the company offered discounted rates last month,” noting that customers have complained that the battery replacements weren’t offered for free. Reuters reports a French prosecutor has also opened an investigation into the company’s actions after a complaint by a consumer organization alleging deception and “planned obsolescence of its products.” All the while Patently Apple has been tracking the number of class-action lawsuits over the move, which has now reached 30 — although some have more merit than others.

Zagg debuts InvisibleShield tempered glass front and back protection for iPhone X, 8, 8 Plus

For those torn between protecting their glass-backed iPhones and showing them off, Zagg’s InvisibleShield Glass+ Luxe 360 offers something in between. The two-piece protector covers the front and back of the iPhone X, 8 or 8 Plus and is made from “the toughest tempered glass on the market” with reinforced edges to prevent chips and cracks. The cases come in matching black, gold and silver colors for the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus and in black and silver for the iPhone X. The glass provides scratch protection and even resists the oil on your finger to lessen the smudges left by fingerprints. The case costs $70 and has a limited lifetime warranty for the life of the device.

Apple hit with £136 million UK tax bill

Apple has been hit with a £136 million tax bill in the UK after an “extensive audit,” The Financial Times reports. The payment — which covered many years leading up to 2015 — was discovered in the accounts of Apple’s European subsidiary and is thought to have come after an audit found that the subsidiary hadn’t received large enough commissions on sales it secured for its Irish sister company. Apple’s well-documented tax fight with the European Union also hinges on Apple’s dealings in Ireland, and Apple’s own report about the £136 million turned over to the UK after the audit was for “additional tax and interest reflecting the company’s increased activity.”

JVC reveals affordable wireless earbud, headphone options

JVC is releasing a new slate of wireless earbud and headphone options this March, appealing to those who want the benefits of wireless listening without the hefty price tag. The JVC Flats Wireless series ($40) are simple on-ear headphones that provide around 11 hours of listening on a full charge and fold away flat for easy storage on the go. The company’s Noise Canceling Bluetooth Folding Headphones ($100) provide the same 11 hours of wireless listening with the added benefit of noise canceling (or longer listening if you want to turn the noise canceling off or plug the headphones in rather than use Bluetooth).

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