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Apple partnering with Oscar-winning studio A24 for movie production

With several TV productions already ongoing, Apple now appears to be making its first big move into film production through a deal with the Oscar-winning indie studio A24, Variety reports. Apple noted that the partnership is a “multiyear agreement” that will involve multiple films, but was vague on other details such as whether these will be theatrical releases or simply part of its digital platform, and no financial details were revealed. A24 is the independent studio behind a number of “edge, auteur-driven projects,” including “Moonlight,” for which it won’t a best picture Oscar, as well as “Room,” “The Witch,” and “Ex Machina.” Variety notes that A24 already has deals with DirecTV and Amazon, but these simply provide special distribution rights for the studio’s own films, and those deals remain in effect as the partnership with Apple is not exclusive, and the studio will also still be continuing to produce and release its own films, despite earlier rumours that Apple may have been looking to acquire A24 or another similar indie studio.

Apple posts third developer betas of iOS 12.1.1, tvOS 12.1.1, second watchOS 5.1.2 beta

Apple has pushed out a third beta of iOS 12.1.1, build 16C5050a, a minor updates that make some slight improvements to the FaceTime UI and other small changes. While the release notes only indicate a minor security change regarding tighter TLS certificate requirements, other reports have indicated that the ability to take Live Photos on a FaceTime call have returned, along with placing the camera toggle button back on the main FaceTime screen. A third beta of tvOS 12.1.1 has also arrived, as build 16K5044a, along with a second beta of watchOS 5.1.2, build 16S5046a. The tvOS 12.1.1 beta release notes indicate a fix to an issue where Apple Configurator could install configuration profiles on nonsupervised devices, but it’s otherwise unclear what else has changed in these latest betas.

Apple ‘aggressively’ recruiting engineers on Qualcomm’s home turf

Apple has posted several job listings for engineers in the San Diego area, Bloomberg reports, as part of what appears to be an aggressive move to draw talent to its own chip design team and away from rival Qualcomm, which has its U.S. operations based in that city. This marks the first time Apple has publicly recruited for these types of roles in the Southern California area, although as the report notes the company has a history of setting up chip design facilities in other areas where rivals such as Intel and AMD have bases of operations, ranging from Portland, Austin, and Orlando to sites in Israel, Germany, Taiwan, and Japan, allowing it to draw on existing bases of engineering talent by poaching from rival companies in those areas.

Apple now offering SIM-free version of iPhone XR in the U.S.

Apple has begun offering the iPhone XR in the U.S. for purchase outright without a carrier contract, less than a month after the device initially went on sale. Apple normally launches new iPhone models in the U.S. only for purchase with specific carriers, presumably to prioritize availability for carrier partners and discourage people from purchasing iPhones for the express purpose of reselling them. While the iPhone XS actually was available SIM-free on launch day, this was not the case with the iPhone XR, perhaps due to a more limited supply. SIM-free iPhone models come unlocked and can be used on any supported carrier worldwide, and prices for the SIM-free versions of the iPhone XR range from $749 for the 64 GB model to $899 for the 256 GB capacity.

Apple quietly replaces Apple Watch Charging Dock with virtually identical new model

MacRumors has discovered that Apple has quietly released a new version of its Apple Watch Charging Dock, although it’s seemingly a mystery as to exactly why, since the new dock appears identical to the original Apple Watch Charging Dock. As MacRumors notes, the new dock has a model number of MU9F2AM, while the original was model MLDW2AM, but the lack of any obvious changes suggests only internal updates. The new dock also had to go through FCC approval, but the FCC filing offered no additional insights into what has changed, or why Apple needed to release a new version.

V-Moda unveils BassFit Wireless In-Ear headphones

V-Moda has just announced its new BassFit Wireless, a new set of sport headphones that are designed to provide uncompromising bass while withstanding even the most rigorous workouts. Built to make no compromises on sound, fit, battery life, or reliability, BassFit Wireless feature premium 10mm dynamic drivers that promise deep and precise bass without affecting clarity, an exclusive TriFit design that gives users a choice of ear hooks, ear fins, or a combination of both, and up to 11 hours of battery life on a single charge that combines a FastCharge feature to get quickly juiced up again when the battery gets low. At only 17 grams, plus a two-layer nanocoating that protects from sweat and weather, they’re both durable enough yet light enough to wear for long workouts. BassFit Wireless also feature support for both aptX and AAC codecs for high-quality sound, plus a multi-function control for volume, music/media playback, call control, and Siri activation, along with a built-in mic. BassFit Wireles are available in either black or white for $130 on V-MODA.com, Amazon.com, and other retailers where V-Moda products are sold.

Apple hires Nokia exec to lead operations in India

Amidst reports last summer that Apple lost three key executives in India, the company has now hired Nokia executive Ashish Chowdhary to be its head of India operations, according to a report by IANS (via 9to5Mac). The IANS report cited industry sources as noting that Chowdhary will come on board with Apple in Jan. 2019, which dovetails with a statement by Nokia to The Economic Times that he will be remaining with Nokia until the end of 2018, after which he will “take a leadership position in another company.” Chowdhary has served as the Chief Customer Operations Officer at Nokia Networks for the past 15 years, and the report notes that Apple was particularly interested in him due to his knowledge and experience in the smartphone and technology industry in India — a market that Apple has been struggling to gain ground in.

Withings resurrects its classic fitness tracker design with Pulse HR

Two months ago, Withings made its triumphant return to the digital health business as an independent company with Steel HR Sport, a multi-sport hybrid smartwatch focused on fitness and aesthetics that built upon the company’s 2014 Activité, and the company hasn’t slowed down since it gained its independence from Nokia earlier this year. Today, Withings has announced Pulse HR, an upgraded and reimagined version of its highly-acclaimed 2013 Pulse. Pulse HR is designed for users looking for a classic, standalone activity tracker rather than a full watch, and boosts a modernized design that incorporates a reinforced black polycarbonate surface within a 316L stainless steel casing. A black soft silicone wristband is included, that users can swap out for other color options if they prefer something more in line with their personal style. A built-in OLED display allows users to view time and date, heart rate, calories burned, progress toward activity goals, real-time workout information, and even smartphone notifications.

Spotify now available on Apple Watch

Spotify has officially announced its app for the Apple Watch. The release comes not long after it was rolled out to Spotify beta testers earlier this month, and while the initial app appears limited to providing playback controls, Spotify has acknowledged that the ability to listen to music offline is in the works for a future update. While the standard watchOS “Now Playing” app previously allowed users to pause and resume playback, the Spotify app gives users the ability to start up playback right from their wrists, mark tracks as favourites, and access recently played tracks, as well as connecting to Spotify Connect enabled speakers.

Naim Audio Mu-so and Uniti systems gain AirPlay 2 support

British hi-fi manufacturer Naim Audio is the latest company to join the AirPlay 2 movement, announcing today that it will be bringing full support for AirPlay 2 to its Mu-so wireless speaker range. An update should be available today for Mu-so Qb, which we reviewed in 2016, while its larger sibling, the Mu-so, will be getting the update later this week. Naim’s Uniti line, which includes the Uniti Atom, will also be getting the AIrPlay 2 treatment by the end of the month.

Significant number of users being required to reset Apple ID passwords to regain access

Reports on various social media platforms this morning, as noted by 9to5Mac have revealed a significant number of Apple users have discovered that their Apple ID accounts have been locked out, requiring them to go through the password reset process in order to regain access. While account lockouts can occur for various reasons, the most common is a result of several failed password entries. This suggests that the problem may have been triggered by hackers attempting to brute-force the passwords for a large number of Apple IDs, although there could be other factors at work as well, including the possibility of a glitch in Apple’s authentication systems. Since an Apple ID is used to access everything from the iTunes Store and iCloud to services like iMessage and FaceTime, users are encountering this problem in various areas, and are normally being required to go through the process of answering security questions and providing their phone number in order to reset their password. MacRumors has also noted that at least some of the users impacted have stated that they are using two-factor authentication and a unique password for their Apple ID, suggesting that this is not merely impacting less secure accounts. Apple has not yet offered any indication as to why this is happening, nor have they responded to any requests for comment.

iFixit tears down 11-inch iPad Pro

As is the normal case with a new iPhone or iPad release, iFixit has posted its teardown of the new 11-inch iPad Pro, offering a deeper look inside Apple’s latest higher-end tablet. iFixit identifies the new tablet as model A1980, noting that it looks about the same size as its predecessor, with the slight reduction in size basically unnoticeable due to the new square-off edge design. Opening up the new iPad Pro appeared to be just as challenging as prior models, requiring cutting through a lot of glue, and trying not to break anything with the extra-thin bezels. iFixit discovered that display cables were fortunately away from the edges, but otherwise awkwardly laid out inside.

Amazon makes deal with Apple to begin selling iPads and iPhones

Apple has signed a deal with Amazon to allow the e-commerce giant to begin selling Apple’s latest iPhone and iPad devices, CNET reports. Amazon announced the news today, noting that it will soon begin selling the 2018 iPad Pro models, along with the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and Apple Watch Series 4, although the deal appears to be limited to only the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and India at this point. The full lineup of Beats headphones are also included in the deal, which will also now require anyone selling Apple and Beats products on Amazon’s marketplace to be an Apple-authorized reseller. Not surprisingly, however, the deal doesn’t include Apple’s HomePod, which of course competes against Amazon’s own Echo devices; Amazon took a similar approach to the Apple TV back in 2015, banning it from the Amazon marketplace and only relenting late last year when the Amazon Prime video app landed on the device.

Apple to donate to fire relief efforts in California

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced on Twitter that Apple will be making a donation for the ongoing fire relief efforts in Northern and Southern california. Dry and windy weather has led to a series of major forest fires in the company’s home state, which have burned upwards of 70,000 acres and forced residents in several areas to be evacuated from their homes, with more than 75,000 homes in the Ventura and Los Angeles counties already having been evacuated.

Cook’s tweet didn’t go into any specifics on how much or through which channels Apple will be providing assistance, although the company often provides financial aid during environmental disasters such as these. [via MacRumors]

Wemo adds HomeKit support to WiFi Smart Dimmer

Wemo is taking the next step in expanding its lineup of home automation accessories into the HomeKit ecosystem via a new software update for its Wemo WiFi Smart Dimmer. Similar to the update announced last summer for its Wemo Mini Smart Plug, the company’s Smart Dimmer will join the family of HomeKit-compatible devices through a free software update, adding compatibility with Apple’s home automation platform and thereby gaining support for Siri voice control and HomeKit scenes and automation routines without the need for a separate hub or bridge.

Satechi announces Aluminum Type-C Mobile Pro Hub for iPad Pro

With Apple’s recently-announced iPad Pro models making the switch to USB-C, Satechi has announced a new Aluminum Type-C Mobile Pro Hub that’s specifically designed for iPad Pro users who want to fully take advantage of the new universal port compatibility. While USB-C means that any of Satechi’s other USB-C hubs and adapters can also be used with the new iPad Pro, the new Mobile Pro Hub features only those expansion ports that are fully compatible with the iPad, avoiding issues like overheating that users may encounter with other adapters, and it’s designed with compactness in mind so that you can more easily take it on the go with you. The hub includes a 4K HDMI port for connecting to an external display, USB-C PD 3.0 charging to keep not only the iPad Pro but also other USB-C devices powered up, in both directions, plus a 3.5mm headphone jack and a standard USB 3.0 port for fast data transfer of external USB keyboard connectivity. The new Aluminum Type-C Mobile Pro Hub is available now for pre-order in either silver and space gray at Satechi.net for $44.99 (25 percent off), and is expected to ship in mid-December at the normal price of $59.99.

Apple posts second developer betas of iOS 12.1.1, tvOS 12.1.1, first watchOS 5.1.2 beta

Apple has pushed out a second set of betas for iOS 12.1.1 and tvOS 12.1.1, continuing the cycle for the updates which are expected to polish up the FaceTime UI along with other fixes and improvements. The releases are also accompanied by a new beta of watchOS 5.1.2, following the actual release of watchOS 5.1.1 earlier this week to fix installation problems users had encountered with the original watchOS 5.1 update.

Twelve South’s PowerPic hides a wireless charger in a picture frame

Twelve South has just announced PowerPic, what is possibly the most unique approach to a Qi-enabled wireless charger we’ve yet seen. Designed as a New Zealand Pine picture frame, PowerPic actually conceals a 10-watt wireless charger behind your favourite photo. Users can simply set their iPhone against the photo to begin charging, and Twelve South promises that it will even work through iPhone cases up to 3mm thick. PowerPic is currently available in black or white color options that will hold any 5” x 7” photo, and as an added bonus, Twelve South has setup a gallery of free iPhone backgrounds and printable frame images for those who want to create a seamless look between the two devices. PowerPic will retail for $89.99, however Twelve South is offering PowerPic at an introductory price of $79.99 through the holiday season, and offering an additional promotion allowing customers to purchase a second unit for an addiional $10 off.

Spotify Connect will no longer require a Premium subscription

Spotify will begin allow its free customers to take advantage of direct streaming via Spotify Connect-enabled speakers, according to The Verge, although individual hardware manufacturers will need to push out a firmware update to bring their speakers up to Spotify’s latest SDK to enable the feature. Once enabled, however, users will be able to enjoy higher-quality Wi-Fi steaming to their speakers that feature Spotify Connect, eliminating the need to keep the playback device within Bluetooth range. While Spotify’s free tier will still be ad-supported, and there will a limit on how many tracks can be skipped, the move should offer a boon to those who haven’t been able to take advantage of the Spotify Connect feature, or who may have been paying up exclusively for that feature.

Report: Apple’s AirPods top Best Buy sales charts for October

Despite the lack of any new updates, Apple’s AirPods are continuing to sell very well, with a new report by Thinknum revealing that they took top place on Best Buy’s sales charts in the month of October, inching up from an already impressive second place spot in September. Thinknum uses sales-rank data from Best Buy to publish a list of the top-selling products every month, and notes that AirPods scored number one in October, beating out Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, which held the top spot in September. According to Thinknum’s data, the average category sales rank for AirPods was 11.38 over 29 days. While the Amazon Fire TV Stick moved to second place, with an average category sales rank of 14.62, Apple’s Lightning-to-3.5mm Headphone Adapter took third place with an average rank of 19.69. While it’s possible some of this may be the result of pent-up demand anticipating a new set of AirPods would be announced in September, it seems clear that nobody was waiting for an announcement at Apple’s Oct. 30 event. [via 9to5Mac]

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