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Apple seeking to have four Qualcomm patents invalidated

Apple is now challenging four key patents as part of its ongoing legal battles with Qualcomm, Bloomberg reports. Specifically, Apple has filed petitions asking the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel four Qualcomm patents, claiming that the ideas that they cover aren’t new and therefore cannot be patented. All four are part of a patent-infringement lawsuit that Qualcomm filed against Apple last year in response to a patent royalty lawsuit initiated by Apple. The fight predominantly centers around whether the royalty fees that Qualcomm is demanding are excessive, and multiple hearings are already either scheduled or underway in the U.S., China, and Germany.

Report: Apple actively seeking to phase out Lightning connector on future iPhones

Apple is actively working to remove the Lightning connector from future iPhone models, and in fact considered removing it from the iPhone X, according to a follow-up from MacRumors on today’s report on AirPower development. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman noted in the original report that “Apple weighed removing the wired charging system entirely” during the development of the iPhone X — which Gurman confirmed to MacRumors would have meant removing the Lightning connector entirely — but opted not to do so due to the lower speed of wireless charging and the added cost of including a wireless charging accessory in the box. That said, reports have circulated for the past few years that Apple is looking to remove most of the external ports and even buttons on the iPhone — a process that began with the controversial elimination of the headphone jack in 2017 — so it seems reasonable that as the cost and performance of wireless charging reaches an acceptable level, the Lightning port will be phased out entirely, and this also makes it seem unlikely that Apple is seriously pondering a switch to a native USB-C port. That said, the removal of the Lightning port is likely still a few years away, although with an increased focus on wireless headphones and wireless sync — compared to a few years ago, relatively few users tether their iPhone to a computer anymore — it definitely seems like something that is possible. It would also eliminate one of the most significant security vulnerabilities in the iPhone by preventing any direct connections at all — something Apple has already been working to tighten up in iOS 12.

Apple part of consortium working on Digital Car Key spec

The Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), an organization dedicated to creating ubiquitous connectivity solutions between vehicles and mobile devices, has announced the Digital Key Release 1.0 Specification, which defines a standard that would allow drivers to download and store a digital key on their smartphones. Apple is part of the CCC, alongside car manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, General Motors, and Hyundai, and Volkswagen, as well as other technology companies including LG, Panasonic, Samsung, NXP, and Qualcomm. The digital key spec defines way to securely transfer a vehicle key onto a smart device such as an iPhone, which can then be used via NFC to lock or unlock a car or star the engine. Keys can also be easily securely shared with other smartphone users. The application of the spec would go beyond personal consumer vehicles with uses in car sharing and car rental services as well. While some of these already implement their own server-based keyless entry systems, the new spec would allow for direct communication between a mobile device and the vehicle security system, rather than needing a request to be sent to a central provide and communicated back to the vehicle over a cellular data network. [via MacRumors]

AirPower to run stripped down version of iOS, now expected to arrive in September

Apple’s AirPower has gotten another more specific release date, this time from a slightly more reliable source, with Bloomberg reporting that the wireless charging mat is now on track for a September release. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman also provides some insight into why the release has taken longer than expected — although Apple only said “2018” when AirPower was announced last year, many anticipated the device would be available earlier in 2018, with some reports suggesting March. Gurman notes that although Apple has been quiet about AIrPower, saying basically nothing since the initial announcement, the company has been actively working on the accessory behind the scenes, dealing with challenges such as making sure the charger doesn’t overheat and addressing the complexity of the circuitry. Unlike traditional Qi chargers, the AirPower is designed to charge up to three devices simultaneously, support the Apple Watch, and allow users to place any of their devices anywhere on the charging mat rather than having to aim for a specific spot.

Apple developing kids’ programming in partnership with Sesame Workshop

Apple is expanding its video content ambitions to include children’s programming through a new deal with Sesame Workshop, Variety reports. The deal includes a multi-series order and is expected to feature entirely original content including both live-action and animated shows, as well as a puppet series. Sesame Workshop is a non-profit educational organization best known for “Sesame Street” and has won more Daytime Emmys over the course of its 50-year history than any other children’s production company.

Apple Pay goes live in Norway, Poland; may be coming soon to Czech Republic

Apple has rolled out Apple Pay in both Poland and Norway this week, 9to5Mac reports, with the mobile payment service landing on eight Polish banks on Monday, followed by a subsequent launch on three banks in Norway on Tuesday. The service also launched in Ukraine last month, following Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent promise that the service would be rolling out to those three countries. Now, a new report from SmartMania (via 9to5Mac) suggests that Apple Pay will also be landing at Moneta Money Bank in the Czech Republic sometime in August. Meanwhile, Apple Pay also continues to expand in the U.S., with over 30 more new banks recently added.

Kristen Wiig departs upcoming Apple comedy amidst scheduling conflicts

Kristen Wiig has had to bow out of an upcoming Apple comedy series due to scheduling conflicts, Variety reports. Wiig was originally slated to star in an Apple adaptation of Curtis Sittenfield’s upcoming collection of short stories, “You Think It, I’ll Say It,” but will be unable to as a result of shooting conflicts with her role as Cheetah in “Wonder Woman 1984.” The ten-episode series was Apple’s first scripted comedy order, and would have represented Wiig’s first return to television since she turned her attention to feature films after her stint on SNL ended in 2012. Sources have told Variety that Apple is still continuing with its plans for the series despite Wiig’s exit, however, and Wiig will remain on as an executive producer alongside Reese Witherspoon, Colleen McGuinness, and Lauren Neustadter.

Apple releases second developers betas for iOS 12, tvOS 12

Apple has released a second set of betas to registered developers for iOS 12 and tvOS 12, following the initial developer preview releases following WWDC at the beginning of the month. iOS 12 beta 2 features a build number of 16A5308e and according to the release notes resolves a number of issues from the first beta, including compatibility with certain third-party apps, accessibility issues, problems confirming Apple Pay payments in some cases, CarPlay alarms, Personal Hotspot, and issues with Phone, FaceTime and Screen Time features. The release introduces new problems as well, including the Weather widget, AirPods, CarPlay compatibility with certain vehicles, FaceTime, Screen Time, and Siri shortcuts. The second beta of tvOS 12 features a build number of 16J5303e and includes a smaller list of resolved and new issues. Both versions are available as over-the-air updates or via direct download from Apple’s developer pages. Public betas for iOS 12 and tvOS 12 aren’t expected to materialize until July, and will likely come following the third developer beta release.

Apple fined $9m in Australia over ‘Error 53’ bug

Apple has been fined $9M AUD ($6.6m USD) by an Australian Federal Court for misleading iPhone and iPad owners regarding third-party screen repairs, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. The court action was initiated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after it received complaints about the “error 53” issue that was [known for disabling iOS devices] that had received third-party screen repairs a few years ago. ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said that several customers alleged that they were “being refused a remedy of any kind by Apple on the basis that their device had had unauthorised repairs” even if those repairs were as minor as having a cracked screen. Ms. Court added that under Australian Consumer law, customers are free to have repairs done by third parties without being penalized by the original manufacturer. For its part, Apple admitted that it made false and misleading statements to consumers between February 2015 and February 2016, and the ACCC identified at least 275 customers in Australia who were affected, although Court notes that it was more widespread, and further investigation through an outreach program suggested as many as 5,000 Australian consumers may have been impacted. [via 9to5Mac]

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Apple appeal of App Store antirust case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear Apple’s appeal over a lower-court decision that resurrected a seven-year-old class-antitrust lawsuit, Reuters reports. In 2011, a group of consumers filed a lawsuit alleging that Apple was maintaining a monopoly on the sale of iPhone apps, driving up prices because the App Store is the only place where such apps can be purchased. Apple asked for the suit to be dismissed in 2013, asserting that there was nothing illegal about creating a closed system, and arguing that it is developers, not Apple, that set prices for apps. A U.S. District Judge ruled later that same year that the plaintiffs couldn’t continue the lawsuit simply because they hadn’t actually bought the apps in question, and therefore couldn’t demonstrate that they had “personally suffered an injury” based on the conduct that they were accusing Apple of. While a lawyer for the plaintiffs at the same said the case could easily be refiled to meet the requirements, that didn’t surface until early last year, when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that iPhone users are free to sue Apple for its alleged monopoly on iPhone apps, although Apple maintained its original argument at the time that users had no standing to sue Apple because the App Store is simply a storefront, however the appellate court judge disagreed, saying that since iPhone users must purchase apps directly from Apple, they have a right to bring a legal challenge against Apple.

Apple opens registration for Summer 2018 Apple Camp for kids

Apple is once again running its Apple Camp summer program for kids aged 8 to 12, with registration now available on the Today at Apple website. Sessions are set to begin in July, and kids can sign up for three different courses at their local Apple Store which will teach various skills using Apple products and software. Courses include Coding with Sphero Robots, which will teach kids coding and problem-solving fundamentals, Beat Making and Songwriting with GarageBand where kids can discover how to create beats and compose their own songs, and Telling Stories with Clips which covers how to use Apple’s new Clips app to create a story with video. Each course consists of three 90-minute sessions held over the course of a single week. All of the courses are free to attend, although spaces are limited and many fill up fast.

Apple releases third round of iOS 11.4.1 and tvOS 11.4.1 betas to developers

Apple has released a third round of betas for iOS 11.4.1 and tvOS 11.4.1, only one week after the company pushed out its second round of the minor maintenance releases. The release notes remain devoid of any information, indicating that these releases likely just address bugs and other issues that are too minor to even be noteworthy. A third beta of watchOS 4.3.2 is not yet available, although it seems likely that it will appear later this week, as with last week’s release.

iOS 12 will introduce automatic location sharing with 911 call centres

Apple has [announced] that users will be gaining automatic location data sharing with 911 and other emergency services as part of the iOS 12 release later this year. The new feature will incorporate Apple’s HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) system released in 2015 that uses services such as cell towers, GPS, Wi-Fi access points, and more to estimate a mobile 911 caller’s location along with a partnership with emergency technology company RapidSOS to deliver the HELO data to 911 call centres. RapidSOS already has infrastructure in place that integrates with the software used by many 911 call centres, which operate on industry-standard protocols, and Apple notes that location data will only be shared with the responding 911 call center during an emergency call and cannot be used for any non-emergency purposes.

HomePod gains News support in Canada, France, and Germany ahead of launch

Apple’s HomePod now has the ability to read the news in Canada, France, and Germany, MacRumors reports, three days ahead of its scheduled launch in those countries. Although it wasn’t entirely clear whether news support for those countries would be included in the HomePod when it debuted next week — Apple’s iOS News app remains limited to the U.S., U.K., and Australia, for example — it turns out that Apple has been able to bake in support for a variety of news sources in each country, including CBC, Global TV, CTV, and CNN in Canada, and Deutschlandfunk, Tagesschau in 100 Sekunden, ZDF heute Express, and Weltnewscheck in Germany.

ArmourGrid’s new Family Kuvrr app provides innovative child safety monitoring

ArmourGrid has launched Family Kuvrr, a new safety app that provides smart monitoring and protection for the whole family against a number of common digital and physical threats.The app’s comprehensive set of features includes intelligent monitoring of app usage, web browsing, call history, location history, and text messages that can alert parents of incidents of cyberbullying, sexting, solicitations, drugs, improper emoji texts, and other issues based on matching texts, images, and videos against known threats in the Family Kuvrr databases. A “Smart Geo” feature provides the ability for family members to keep track of each other’s locations and create personalized “geo-fences” that will alert a parent, guardian, or older sibling when another family member enters or leaves specific locations, such as leaving school, arriving home, or entering unsafe areas. The app also provides an SOS alert feature to allow any family member to quickly send an emergency alert to the rest of the family, including a text/email/app notification with the user’s location, along with opening up a live audio/video stream so that other family members can assess the situation right away, and also includes roadside assistance in the U.S. and Canada as part of the annual membership plan. Family Kuvrr is available in a basic free version, or users can sign up for a Premium ten-member plan for $2/month or $10/year; a Premium+ plan is also available for larger families — up to 20 members — for $3/month or $20/year. A 30-day free trial is also available. The app is available on both iOS and Android platforms, and ArmourGrid notes that some features “may have limited availability on iOS due to iOS restrictions.”

Apple Maps search and navigation features down

In a rare outage, Apple Maps’ search and routing/navigation features are down this morning, affecting users’ ability to search for new locations and get directions in Apple Maps. The issue also affects entering locations in Apple’s iOS and macOS Calendar and Reminders apps, since they use the same Apple database to look up their information. The issue does not appear to affect the simple display of Apple Maps, and traffic information also remains available despite the outage. Further, it appears that users are still able to search for and find locations from their search history, although directions are not available even in these cases. This issue is clearly with Apple’s back-end databases and is therefore affecting Apple Maps on all platforms, along with any other apps that use Apple’s Maps APIs to look up address information. It’s not clear how long the outage will last, although user’s can check the current status on Apple’s System Status page.

ElcomSoft’s forensic tools actually confirm security of Messages in iCloud

Elcomsoft has announced that its latest Phone Breaker forensic tool can now access messages stored in iCloud from devices running iOS 11.4 or later, but the requirements for doing so actually serve to illustrate how secure the feature actually is. Elcomsoft notes that “Apple protects iMessages with a strong protection mechanism much like the one that is used to protect the iCloud Keychain,” adding that Apple even takes it one step further by requiring devices participating in Messages in iCloud to use two-factor authentication, and that all messages are “securely encrypted with a key that is encrypted with devices’ lock screen password.” Apple also specifically states in a support article that the user’s “messages are encrypted on your device and can’t be accessed by anyone without [the] device passcode.”

Apple confirms security lockdown of Lightning port in iOS 12

Apple has confirmed plans to tighten security in iOS 12 to block the use of external hacking devices such as Grayshift’s GrayKey box by locking down the Lightning port on iOS devices, Reuters reports. A feature recently discovered in iOS 11.4 was designed to prevent the Lightning port from accepting USB device connections when nothing had been connected in seven days, and after the first iOS 12 beta came out, it was discovered that the feature had been adjusted to reduce the time limit down to a mere one hour — meaning that when connecting a USB device to an iPhone running iOS 12, users will be prompted to unlock their iPhone unless a USB device has already been connected in the past hour. While Apple had previously been silent on the issue, this week an Apple spokesperson confirmed to Reuters that the feature is being implemented, but clarified that the move is being undertaken to protect all customers, and not specifically to thwart law enforcement efforts, as some have suggested.

Apple Support iOS app expands to 20 more countries, nine more languages

Apple has released an update to its Apple Support app, noting support for “over 20 new countries and regions” along with the addition of Czech, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, and Russian language support. While the release notes aren’t specific on which new countries are available, the additional languages provide some indications, and Apple adds that users can now find solutions in their preferred languages, regardless of their actual location; users could previously only use the default language(s) for their country.

Apple releases second watchOS 4.3.2 developer beta

Apple has released a second beta of watchOS 4.3.2 to registered developers. Featuring a build number of 15U5062a, the latest beta follows release of new iOS 11.4.1 and tvOS 11.4.1 betas earlier this week and contains similarly empty release notes, suggesting that the newest beta includes on extremely minor fixes. With watchOS 5 already in the early beta stages, it seems likely that this may be the last watchOS 4 release.

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