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Apple begins selling iPhone XR clear case, 18W USB-C power adapter

Apple has finally come out with its own first-party protection option for its latest iPhone, with the arrival of its iPhone XR Clear Case. While Apple has quietly indicated that a clear case option would be arriving for the new iPhone in at least some countries, many were perplexed when the iPhone XR went on sale in October with no sign of any cases from Apple itself. While numerous third-party cases were readily available, it was unusual for Apple to be selling its own cases in Apple Stores alongside a new iPhone launch. The new iPhone XR Clear Case is made from a combination of clear polycarbonate and flexible TPU materials and has a scratch-resistant coating applied both inside and out; it is priced at $39 and can be ordered from Apple’s online store beginning today.

Anki’s Cozmo gains more interactive features in latest update

Anki has released another feature update to its Cozmo robot just in time for the Holiday season, adding even more interactive features. The “Cozmo Says” feature that allowed users to type in things or Cozmo to say has received a boost, being renamed “Cozmo Performs” and allowing kids to trigger Cozmo to express certain emotions or act like other animals and objects, such as a cat, a dog, or a firetruck, and even chain statements and actions together to tell a story with Cozmo. Cozmo Free Time has also been enhanced to allow users to see what Cozmo sees as he is wandering around and get updates on what he is thinking and what is sparking his curiosity. Two new Cozmo Mini Games have also been added, “Rebounce” where players can use their head movements to bounce a ball and bash bricks and “Tappy Cozmo” where players must rapidly tap red and green cubes to navigate past dangerous canyon walls. Anki is also now selling a companion book, “Create with Cozmo” for $19.99 to introduce basic coding concepts and get users started on building Code Lab projects with Cozmo.

Certified third-party Lightning to USB-C cables expected to start appearing in early 2019

New reports from inside Apple’s MFi licensing program indicate that we may see third-party Apple-certified Lightning to USB-C cables go on sale early in the new year. MacRumors reports that members of Appel’s MFi program have now been given the go-ahead to manufacture Lightning to USB-C cables for charging and syncing, along with a new Lightning connector (part C94) that MFi partners can now order from Apple. Documentation shared with MacRumors indicates that Apple is selling the new C94 Lightning connector to eligible hardware manufacturers for $2.88 per unit, and it’s expected to ship in six weeks, meaning that the first Apple-certified cables could appear on the market as early as February. The Apple-certified Lightning to USB-C cables would provide new options for users who want to fast charge this year’s iPhone models with a USB-C PD power adapter, which has up until now been limited to Apple’s own cables.

D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD HomeKit-enabled camera gains new features

D-Link has released an update to the OMNA app for its Omna 180 Cam HD HomeKit-enabled Camera, noting several new interesting features that will be rolling out by an accompanying OTA firmware update over the next few days. The OMNA 180 Cam HD was the first HomeKit-enabled camera to arrive on the market after Apple added support for the feature in iOS 10 back in 2016, and while the new update doesn’t appear to be adding any new HomeKit-specific features, users will be able to use the OMNA app itself to schedule automatic OTA firmware updates in the future, as well as arming and disarming the motion sensor with a single tap and viewing “summary clips” that will presumably provide an overview of motion events. The release notes for the app also indicate that notification behaviours have been modified, along with a usual more general note about bugfixes. The updated OMNA app is available from the App Store now, but the new features will also require a firmware update that appears to be rolling out more gradually.

Report: IDC estimates Apple shipped 4.2 million Apple Watches in Q32018

Apple Watch shipments were up 54 percent compared to last year, with the company shipping an estimated 4.2 million units during Q32018, according to a the latest data shared by IDC. Despite the increase, Apple still remains in second place to Xiaomi for wearables, with the latter company having shipped 6.9 million wearable devices during the same quarter, although Apple still came in at a respectable 13.1 percent market share as compared to Xiaomi’s 21.5 percent, and ahead of third-place contender Fitbit, which shipped 3.5 million wearable devices. As the vendors and categories suggest, IDC uses a broad definition of “wearable devcies” that range from fitness trackers through to full smart watches like the Apple Watch. As MacRumors notes, IDC is left to estimate Apple Watch shipments since Apple does not provide specifics on unit sales, and blends Apple Watch revenue into its “Other” category along with a plethora of products such as AirPods, Apple TV, HomePod, and Apple-made accessories. However, IDC states that the Apple Watch Series 4 only accounted for less than 20 percent of all Apple Watch shipments, with the rest being made up of the 2017 Apple Watch Series 3, which saw sales boosted as a result of its price reduction after the Series 4 debuted this fall.

Apple launches online store with discounts for Veterans and Military Members

Apple has launched a dedicated online storefront for Veterans and Military Personnel, offering a 10% discount on most Apple products to current members and Veterans of the U.S. Military and National Guard and Reserve. First reported by Steve Aquino, the new store goes beyond Apple’s normal educational pricing by also offering discounts on more products, including iPhone and Apple Watch. While Apple already offers discounts for veterans and military members through its retail stores, this is the first time the company has put up a dedicated online store, which appears to be an extension of its Employee Purchase Program, but offering significantly deeper discounts than even Apple’s U.S. Federal Government Employee Purchase Plan.

Apple research paper outlines how Apple has optimized Siri to work on HomePod

Apple has published a new entry in its Machine Learning Journal providing in-depth technical information on how Apple designed Siri on the HomePod to deal with hearing and understanding a user’s voice in the larger spaces in which HomePod is intended to operate. Titled Optimizing Siri on HomePod in Far‑Field Settings, the paper explains how Siri on HomePod had to be designed to work in “challenging usage scenarios” such as dealing with users standing much farther away from the HomePod than they typically would be from their iPhone, as well as dealing with loud music playback from the HomePod itself, and making out the user speaking despite other sound sources in a room like a TV or household appliances. In the article, Apple goes on to outline how the HomePod’s six microphones and multichannel signal processing system built into its A8 chip work together to adapt to a variety of changing conditions while still making sure that Siri can hear the person speaking and respond appropriately. Machine learning algorithms are employed as part of the signal processing to create advanced algorithms for common features like echo cancellation and noise reduction, improving Siri’s reliability across a wide variety of frequently changing environments.

Report: 5G iPhones won’t be coming until at least 2020

A new report from Bloomberg suggests that Apple is planning to take its usual measured approach to adopting new wireless standards, with 5G-capable iPhones not arriving until at least 2020. While carriers are expected to begin rolling out larger-scale 5G network deployments in 2019, sources suggest that Apple will wait at least a year after those networks are deployed — presumably to give them time to iron out the bugs — before releasing iPhone models that support the new standards. This approach will come as little surprise to long-term iPhone users, who will also remember Apple’s delays in adopting both 3G technology — the original iPhone was EDGE only in an era when many competitors were already fully supporting 3G — and the later wider deployment of LTE, which didn’t arrive until the iPhone 5 was released in 2012.

Catalyst announces Waterproof Cases for iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR

Catalyst has unveiled its Waterproof Cases for iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, providing full protection against the elements for Apple’s latest high-end iPhone models. While Catalyst’s Impact Protection Cases were released back in September, it’s taken the company a bit longer to get its fully waterproof options on the market. While the announcement of the new cases comes in time for the holiday season, Catalyst is only accepting pre-orders right now for the larger iPhone XS Max version, with the cases expected to ship later this month. The new cases provide the same industry-leading waterproof rating as last year’s iPhone X case — up to 33 feet of submersion in water and drop protection of up to 6.6 feet. The [Catalyst Waterproof Case for iPhone XS] sells for $89.99 and is available now in stealth black, while the $99.99 iPhone XS Max version is expected to be available sometime this month. Catalyst also has a Waterproof Case for iPhone XR ($89.99), which is available for pre-order and expected to arrive sometime after the new year.

Daily Deal: CloudMounter for Mac, Lifetime License

Today in iLounge Deals, you can pick up a lifetime license to CloudMounter for Mac for only $19 — that’s 57% off the regular price. While cloud storage has some great benefits, using it from your Mac isn’t always the smoothest experience, often requiring you to constantly flip between apps and browser windows to find files and save your data, interrupting your workflow. This is where CloudMounter for Mac comes in — by letting you mount popular cloud services as if they were local disks right on your hard drive, you can make your data much more accessible without having to sync everything down to your Mac. Advanced encryption standards keep your data safe, and it ties right into Finder so you can use the UI you’re already familiar with.

Get a lifetime license to CloudMounter for Mac now for only $19

Apple Music coming to the Amazon Echo on Dec. 17

In a huge move of taking Apple Music beyond the Apple’s own hardware, Amazon has announced that Apple Music will be coming to Echo devices just in time for Christmas. Amazon notes that Apple Music subscribers with Echo devices will be able to enjoy Apple Music’s entire song catalog, and will be able to ask Alexa to play their favourite songs, artists, albums, and playlists, and even build radio stations based on genres, or listen to Beats 1 radio. Users will simply need to enable the Apple Music skill in the Alexa app and link up with their Apple Music account. While Apple Music has been available on other platforms such as Sonos for a while now, this is the first time that Apple has opened up its music service to be commanded by a voice assistant other than its own Siri, much less a speaker ecosystem that is a direct competitor to its own HomePod.

Mophie announces new Powerstation with Lightning connector

Mophie has announced a new Powerstation with Lightning connector 5,050 mAh battery pack, an ultra-portable and versatile solution designed specifically for iPhone and iPad users. Using a Lightning port for recharging, the new Powerstation means that iOS device users will have one less cable to carry around with them, and can also charge the new Powerstation from just about any dock with a Lightning connector as well. The 5,050 mAh battery provides an extra 15 hours of juice for a typical iPhone, and dual USB-A ports let you charge two devices at the same time. The power pack also features Mophie’s Priority+ Charging feature, allowing pass-through charging to ensure that your iPhone is powered up first before the Powerstation itself starts to recharge. The new Powerstation with Lightning Connector is being offered in three colors — black, red, and space gray — with an aluminum finish and is available starting today for $59.95 at mophie.com.

Plex joins forces with Tidal to provide access to over 60 million high-quality tracks

Popular media platform Plex is taking another step towards solidifying its position as a one-stop media hub with announcement that it has partnered with the global music streaming platform Tidal. The new deal will give Plex members access to more than 60 million high-quality music tracks and over 244,000 videos, along with unique editorial content. Plex users will be able to access Tidal content directly from the Plex app through an exclusive subscription deal that will enhance the user of both services. Plex users will continue to be able to enjoy their own personal music collections alongside Tidal’s catalog, with everything seamlessly blended together within the Plex app, allowing users to search out their favourite music and other content regardless of where it’s located.

V-Moda releases SpeakEasy DAC/AMP Lightning cable, V-Man headphone stand

V-Moda has just announced a new set of accessories for its lineup of high-fidelity headphones and IEMs, starting with the new SpeakEasy DAC/AMP Lightning cable ($99.99), which allows owners of all V-MODA over-ear and on-ear headphones to swap out their analog 3.5mm cable for a direct Lighting connection for modern iOS devices with a high-performance DAC and amplifier that promises to deliver high-resolution sound well beyond most wireless headphones or even Apple’s own 3.5mm to Lightning adapter. The 24-bit DAC is Apple MFi-certified and features a signal-to-noise ratio of 114dB, along with a headphone amp that can deliver 31 mW of output power, while not deplete power consumption and more than a standard 3.5mm analog cable.

ECG feature reportedly coming to Apple Watch Series 4 with watchOS 5.1.2

The new Apple Watch Series 4 will be getting its promised ECG feature as part of the upcoming watchOS 5.1.2 update, according to documents obtained by MacRumors. While the version of watchOS 5.1.2 that is currently in developer beta testing has not shown any indications of the ECG feature as of yet, internal Apple Store training documents have revealed that an ECG app will be included with the final public release of watchOS 5.1.2. As promised, the app is designed to provide basic ECG functionality to allow users to determine whether their heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation, thereby suggesting that they should consult a doctor for more comprehensive tests to determine if a heart condition actually exists.

Apple Pay comes to Belgium

Apple Pay has launched in Belgium, according to a report by 9to5Mac, although it appears to have only landed at a single banking conglomerate thus far, Fortis, which comprises BNP Paribas, Fintro and Hello Bank. Other big banks in Belgium have yet to get on board, nor have there been any announcements as to when that might happen. Apple Pay has been gradually rolling out worldwide since its debut in 2016, and has apparently landed in Kazakhstan this week as well, along with Apple promising that a German rollout of the mobile payment service is also expected to come by the end of the year.

Apple updates iCloud for Windows to resolve Windows 10 update compatibility problems

Following news last week of compatibility problems between Apple’s iCloud for Windows and Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 updates, Apple has quietly pushed out an update to iCloud for Windows that resolves the issues, allowing Microsoft users to update to the October release of Windows 10 (version 1809) without needing to first remove iCloud for Windows from their system. Earlier this month, Windows 10 users with the iCloud components installed found that they weren’t being offered the latest update to Windows 10, which Microsoft later acknowledged was due to “an incompatibility with iCloud for Windows (version 7.7.0.27) that may cause users to have issues updating or synching Shared Albums.” Microsoft had blocked the Windows 10 update “to ensure a seamless experience for users” and reported that it was working with Apple to resolve the issue. This has now reportedly been resolved in iCloud for Windows 7.8.1, released yesterday, and although Apple has not officially confirmed that the issues are fixed, the updated system requirements would seem to suggest that this is the case, with Apple now simply noting “Windows 7 or later” as opposed to the prior release notes which specified “Windows 7 through Windows 10 April 2018 Update.” [via 9to5Mac]

Apple offering up to $100 extra credit on iPhone trade-ins

Apple has launched a limited time promotion for its GiveBack trade-in program, offering customers upgrading to a current iPhone up to $100 of additional trade-in value for their old iPhones. For example, customers trading in an iPhone 6 Plus will receive $200 in credit, an increase of $100 over the usual trade-in value, while the iPhone 8 can be traded in at $300, only $25 more than the usual $275 credit. The bonus appears to be limited to purchasing only the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, or iPhone XR, and is not available for customers who may only be looking to upgrade to an iPhone 7 or iPhone 8 series model. [via MacRumors]

YouTube now offering discounted Premium and Music student subscriptions

YouTube has announced new discounted student plans for its YouTube Premium and YouTube Music services, providing eligible students with a 40 to 50 percent discount over the normal subscription rates. YouTube Music is being offered for students at $4.99/month, half of the normal $9.99/month price tag, while YouTube Premium for students will be $6.99/month, down from the normal $11.99/month pricing. YouTube is also offering a special promotion for students who sign up before January 31, 2019, enabling them to lock in a $5.99/month rate for the life of their subscription. YouTube Music is Google’s latest response to Spotify and Apple Music, both of which have been offering student plans for some time now. YouTube Premium is an expanded service which combines all of the benefits of YouTube Music while also offering users ad-free video, background playback, offline viewing, and access to all YouTube Originals. The new student plans are currently only available in the U.S., to full-time students at an accredited college or university, although YouTube notes that it will be expanding to more countries in the future.

Transit for iOS now lets you combine public transit and ridehailing

Popular iOS transportation planning app Transit has announced a major new feature in the form of “multimodal” trip support that will allow users to combine public transit and ride-sharing services into single trip itineraries, all in one app. Although transportation apps such as Transit and Google Maps have offered support for services such as Uber for quite some time, ride-sharing services have traditionally been presented as alternatives to taking public transit, rather than allowing users to mix and match then with other transportation types. Transit’s new feature, dubbed Transit+, is a “transit-oriented ridehailing” service that will allow users to plan trips that include a combination of services such as Uber, Lyft, Via, Ola, and Téo, along with local and regional public transit services, feeding rides from these services onto buses and trains.

Further, Transit+ isn’t just about allowing users to choose to use ridehail services as an alternative, but is actually designed to provide recommendations on the most efficient trip, so even in situations where a bus might easily take you to a nearby rail station, transit will let you know if an alternative route if a specific ride-hailing provider like Uber or Lyft can get you there faster, and Transit notes that in many cases, contrary to a common misconception, a combination of ridehail and transit services can actually provide for a faster trip, particularly in congested downtown areas where rail services are frequently much more efficient. The app will also handle the necessary bookings and payments for a seamless travel experience, saving users the hassle of juggling different apps, and Transit has also announced that it is working with transit carriers in various cities to integrate fare payments into the app, with an initial rollout already underway in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. The Transit+ service is rolling out in beta with support for ridehail with rail services in all cities, and ridehail with bus services rolling out initially in Kansas City, Silicon Valley, Boston, Detroit, Nashville, Columbus, Cleveland, St. Petersburg, St. Louis, Dayton, Albany, and Las Vegas.

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